History Is Easy, Comedy Is Hard

Complete History barely worth recalling, Picasso sparkles

Martin is trying for Tom Stoppard-like highbrow humor here, but his wild-and-crazy setups are pure Saturday Night Live. He occasionally reaches for great profundity, but his thinking is lost in gags, like the unexpected appearance of a time-traveling Elvis impersonator who delivers a 3-D message from Picasso's muse.

Director David Ira Goldstein works around Martin's occasionally eggheaded excesses, commanding his excellent cast to stomp through jokes that only art-history majors will find funny and to reach for bigger yuks elsewhere--a luxury that Bob Sorenson, who directed The Complete History of America (abridged), didn't have. Saddled with stupid sight gags and tired jokes, that show pratfalls on its face, eclipsed by Martin's thoughtful and fresh-minted historic humor on the stage next door.

Actors Theatre of Phoenix's The Complete History of America (abridged) and Arizona Theatre Company's Picasso at the Lapin Agile continue through Sunday, November 1, at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe.

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