Iliescu, a member of the Epicenter Theatre Group and a Romanian immigrant, has written an interesting and truly important play about the terrible experience of a Romanian family under the country's post-World War II communist regime. Such heart-breaking stories are too little known or understood in this country, and it is good to see one of them told so artfully well.
Iliescu draws on his own family's experience in crafting The Man Who Lost His Sundays, and he has directed a fine cast in bringing his play to life. It is well done all around, but the performances of Bill and Judy Premin as the 50-year-old versions of Michael and Victoria are particularly moving.
Michael's absences due to his stints as a political prisoner worked to embitter his son, so that we understand - in retrospect - how their son Nicholas turned into the 30-year-old character we first meet, played by Marco Zaccagnini, as opposed to the boy of 11 played very well by Brandon Mach.
It is a play that deserves to have other productions and reach wider audiences.
After intermission, and a rather long set change, we go from deadly serious realism to the whimsical humor of Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile. Martin envisions the possible coincidence of a young Albert Einstein, not yet the celebrated scientist, but still a patent office clerk, showing up in the same Paris bistro as painter Pablo Picasso - at that time still in his Blue Period and not yet a Cubist.
Iliescu is the young Einstein and Marco Zaccagnini is the young Picasso, while Bill Premin both directs and appears as the bar habitur Gaston.
It's an amusing play, but I do think this production needs sharper timing. My favorite performance in this one is Kara Joy Reed as the lusty barmaid Germaine. And Erin Edgerton needs to somehow Frenchify her portrayal as Suzanne.
Paul Jagoda's innovative set for the first play works far better than the more mundane set for the second, besides the latter being just too much work to set up.
SHOW DETAILS: The Man Who Lost His Sundays & Picasso at the Lapin Agile continue through Nov. 5 at the Varner Hall Lab Theatre on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester Hills. For performance and ticket information, go to www.epicentertheatregroup.org.