Spending the weekend with Pablo Picasso: Repertory Theatre presents the one man show “A Weekend with Pablo Picasso”

By Khea Pollard


It is 1957, in the South of France, at “Le Californie,” Pablo Picasso’s studio home. He is surprised to find us – the audience – watching him in the privacy of his home. As “students of art” he grudgingly allows us to spend the weekend with him while he fulfills the request of a wealthy buyer. He must produce six paintings and three vases in three days.

Herbert Siguenza took on the arduous task of presenting the life of one of the most widely known artists of the 20th century. Not only did he write the play, but he chose to star as the famous painter. Oddly enough, Siguenza closely resembles the late artist with his bald head, tan complexion and surefooted demeanor. For 85 minutes, with no intermission, Siguenza worked the stage alone.

Siguenza as Picasso is as eccentric as ever. He parades around stage in a matador’s cape while furiously painting artwork at top speed, childishly prances to French music and drops to his knees to emulate a bull in a match (maybe break this sentence up, it’s a tiny bit long).

The show opens with Siguenza bathing center stage in a makeshift bathtub, foreshadowing the humorous tone that carries throughout the remainder of the play. From the tub he muses on the creation of art and the artist as a “receptacle for emotions that come from everywhere.”

There are many thought-provoking lines to follow. Some are original quotes from Picasso cleverly woven into the script. Moments of artistic reflection provide insight about the painter while accelerating the nontraditional storyline. Because there are no explicit scene changes or alternate storylines to trace, the action was lacking at some points. To remedy this, Siguenza uses a bit of time travel to keep the show interesting. Flashing back to specific periods in the artist’s life—most notably the period in which he crafted the politically charged painting “Guernica”—aimed to reveal the motives behind his work.

“It is not sufficient to simply know a work, but when, why and under what conditions it was created,” Siguenza said.

At a very interesting point in the show, Siguenza sketches a portrait of an audience member sitting in the first row. He later returned the portrait, freshly signed, to the lucky patron.

The show, more or less, is almost excllusively crafted for fans of Picasso. Victoria Petrovich, the show’s  projection designer, made clever use of projection images to turn the set into a giant easel depicting some of Picasso’s most popular artwork. Those already familiar with his work may pick up on the subtle nuances in the choice of art projected across the easels onstage. Similarly, projections were used to set the mood or reflect a change in time period.

The play closes with a sense of wonder and inspiration when Siguenza offers a paintbrush to a member of the audience saying, “This is not a souvenir, it is to use.”

The San Diego Repertory Theatre has extended “A Weekend with Pablo Picasso” through Oct. 13 at the Lyceum Theatre downtown.