BWW Reviews: Ives' Verse Play THE HEIR APPARENT is Divinely Silly
"Well, I don't care what anybody says,
I am a one man Comedie Francaise!"
Few would argue with Carson Elrold's boastful pronouncement near the conclusion of Classic Stage Company's rollicking production of The Heir Apparent, as playwright David Ives and director John Rando have the versatile clown racing through a stageful of roles as his character attempts to guide the future of an elderly miser's fortune.
Adapting Jean-François Regnard 1708 bob-bon, Ives' comedy is written completely in nimbly penned rhyming couplets, but though the setting and style remain 18th Century France, the text frequently sneaks in modern references to national health care, 99 percenters, soccer moms and the like.
Filled with the standard stock characters, John Lee Beatty's fanciful drawing room setting is in the home of the wealthy and sickly Geronte (a marvelously doddering and befuddled Paxton Whitehead, hacking up phlegm with perfect comic timing) who plans to have his will written to distribute his well-hidden assets to numerous distant relatives he barely knows. His nephew Eraste (a preppie-ish Dave Quay) needs the inheritance in order to marry his love, Isabelle (Amelia Pedlow), but her mother (grande dame Suzanne Bertish) thinks the easier path to Geronte's riches is to have Isabelle marry the millionaire herself.
As is often the case in such matters, it's the servant who is assigned the task of saving the day. Tempted with the opportunity to earn a handsome enough stash so that he can marry the pretty maid (Claire Karpen), manservant Crispin (Elrod, leaving no set piece unchewed), uses his wits and an impressive costume collection in the name of true love and unrepentant greed.
With the master well-sedated (or so they thought), Crispin impersonates Geronte himself as he dictates a new will to his lawyer, Scruple. David Pittu, an expert at comical eccentrics, plays the smug and diminutive Scruple while on his knees, sneering at any comment that could be misconstrued as a jab at his height. An encounter between the real Geronte and the imposter salutes Duck Soup's famous mirror scene.
Bouncing back and forth between highbrow wit and lowbrow crudeness, occasionally taking time out to banter with the audience, The Heir Apparent is divinely silly and a heck of a good time.