For Farciful Gallic Glee
By Beatrice Williams-Rude
A merengue, a confection; gives new meaning to the French connection.
Metromaniacs is a 1738 farce by Alexis Piron, translated and adapted by David Ives. The title refers not to those mad about the Paris subway, but those besotted with poetry. The original work is written in couplets, as is this “transladaptation.”
The pace s dizzying as each bon mot is hilariously followed by the next. One would yield to full-throated laughter but for fear of missing the next clever line. The audience gets giddy from the constant flow. The deliberate anachronisms bring especially loud guffaws. When speaking of a profound poetess living in the “barbaric” north of France, it is said she “uses Brittany Spears.” Method acting comes up in one exchange.
The plot is as confusing as a labyrinth—to which there is reference made in one of the couplets. Mistaken identity—can’t tell the maid from her mistress—long lost relatives bequeathing fortunes—and the most used word, “incognito,” all this resulting in such hilarity that the audience is a sea of smiling faces. (It would seem that David Ives had as much fun writing this as the audience has in viewing it.)
The cast is sublime: Christian Conn, “Damis,” a young poet infatuated with a poetess he’s never seen; Amelia Pedlow, “Lucille,” a seemingly aesthetic young woman in love with poetry; Noah Averbach-Katz, “Dorante,” a handsone young dolt in love with Lucille; Dina Thomas, “Lisette,” Lucille’s maid and her double; Adam Green, “Mondor,” Damis’s delightfully wily valet; Adam LeFevre, “Francalou,” Lucille’s father, owner of the sumptuous premises, who is a dedicated, if frustrated poet; and Peter Kybart, “Baliveau,” Damis’s cantankerous uncle.
The brilliant direction is by Michael Khan.
The core of the plot is based on an embarrassing incident in Voltaire’s life. He thought he was corresponding with an glittering, penetrating, insightful poetess whom he’d never seen, but it was a hoax perpetrated by a male prankster.
The period is established by the music. The composer, Adam Wernick. Lighting by Betsy Adams; sound by Matt Stine. This production provides a feast for the eyes: Each costume a confection; the set’s divine deception. The period clothes are by Murell Horton. The fanciful set—a faux forest created in a ballroom–is by James Noone.
So vive la France, Piron and Ives, and à bas to Louis XV, for vetoing Piron’s membership in the Académie Française on grounds of indecency.
Don’t walk, run . . . to partake of this glorious fun.
Photos: Carol Rosegg
Metromaniacs is being presented by the Red Bull Theater at the Duke Theater, 229 West Forty-Second Street (between Seventh and Eighth Aves. in Manhattan). It officially opens on Sunday, April 22 and will play through May 26. Running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes, including a 10 minute intermission.