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BWW Reviews: Rediscovered French Farce THE METROMANIACS Sparkles at Shakespeare Theatre Company


THE METROMANIACS might not be Moliere but it is a delicious romp thanks to the expert direction by Shakespeare Theatre Company artistic director Michael Kahn and playwright David Ives. Ives new comedy in English is taken from a rediscovered farce, LA MÉTROMANIE by Alexis Piron.

Piron (1689-1773) enjoyed notoriety and success in his time as a comic writer. His pièce de résistance was LA MÉTROMANIE, produced at the Comédie Française, which sent up the literary pretensions of the day and poked fun at Voltaire. All you really have to know is it is wall to wall fun and frothy, gorgeous to look at and a fine way to spend an hour or two in the theatre.

David Ives has taken the ball of witty, rhyming verse and ran with it all the way to Paris and back. Using the template of Piron's champagne of a comedy and incorporating the characters typical in Commedia dell'arte - Inamorato and Inamorata, Pantalone, Arlecchio, Colombina, and the rest - Ives has devised a new farce that will likely take its place on stages across the country. THE METROMANIACS glitters with literary references, up-to-the-minute pop culture allusions and topical humor. These ingredients mingle with the silliest of comic plot lines for a delicious confection.

Trying to explain the multiple strands of the story would be pointless, so suffice it to say every character pretends to be someone else or is mistaken for someone else (or both!) until the satisfying conclusion that has a tiny filigree of a twist that surprises but makes perfect sense.

The play unfolds in the resplendent, Rococo grandeur of Monsieur Francalou's ballroom, decorated to look like a theatrical Sylvan wood for the birthday divertissement for his vapid daughter Lucille. Francalou is brought to life with sprightly charm by Adam LeFevre (a doppelganger for Peter Ustinov) who is passionate about writing poetry and dramas. The Franco-philian Paris Hilton, Lucille, is a masterful performance by Amelia Pedlow, totally enamored of poetry, being the metromaniac of the title. And no, she is not in love with subways, she is in love with poetry and verse.

Vying for Lucille's affections are the stalwart and doltish Dorante - in the fitting specimen of Anthony Roach - and the twitty and witty young poet Damis. Damis - a winning performance by Christian Conn - thinks he is in love with Lucille, but he thinks she is someone else for much of the time. (I told you it was too much to try to outline the plot!)

In the mix are the archetypical wily servant types, and here Ives has come up with Mondor, Damis's valet, and Lisette, Lucille's saucy soubrette of a maid. As Mondor, Michael Goldstrom handles his duties with improvisational glee. Matching him with comic skill is Dina Thompson as Lisette. Rounding out the cast, the surly uncle of Damis is taken on by Peter Kybart, another strong performance.

All in all, the cast commands the stage and has a command of the delightful verse. They maintain a break-neck pace, thanks to Kahn's precise direction that mines every nuance from the rediscovered classic farce. Providing the sumptuous setting, scenic designer James Noone provides ballroom that would be at home in Versailles. Likewise, Murell Horton's costumed finery for the men and women are a feast for the eyes. Composer Adam Wernick's background score adds additional flavor and is mixed well by sound designer Matt Tierney.

If the winter weather has got you down, I urge you to get tickets to THE METROMANIACS for disguises and ruses and verse-ical abuses. Kahn and Ives third collaboration as director and playwright/adapter - after THE LIAR and THE HEIR APPARENT - have struck gold again finding high art in the silliness of lesser known French comedies.

One final note: I must commend Shakespeare Theatre Company for their publication "Asides" which is always chockfull of insight and background information on the plays. For THE METROMANIACS, "Asides" is combined with the program for the production. It may be more information than some patrons need, but for this dramaturgical junkie, I read over every page.

Shakespeare Theatre Company presents THE METROMANIACS by David Ives

Adapted from La Métromanie by Alexis Piron

Directed by Michael Kahn

CAST: Danny Cackley, Servant; Christian Conn, Damis; Michael Goldstrom, Mondor; Peter Kybart, Baliveau; Adam LeFevre, Francalou; Ross Destiche, Servant; Amelia Pedlow, Lucille; Anthony Roach, Dorante; Dina Thomas, Lisette. PRODUCTION: Director Michael Kahn; Scenic Designer James Noone; Costume Designer Murell Horton; Lighting Designer Mark McCullough; Sound Designer Matt Tierney ; Composer Adam Wernick; Voice and Text Coach Ellen O'Brien; Literary Associate/ Dramaturg Drew Lichtenberg; Assistant Director Craig Baldwin; Production Stage Manager Bret Torbeck; Assistant Stage Manager Elizabeth Clewley

February 3 - March 08, 2015

Runtime: 1hr 45min

To order online, click HERE. Call the Box Office at 202.547.1122 or Toll Free: 877.487.8849

Lansburgh Theatre 450 7th Street NW, Washington, DC 20004

Photo Credit: Scott Suchman/STC

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