BWW Reviews: THE HEIR APPARENT at the Shakespeare Theatre Company

By: Oct. 17, 2011
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If you have never been to Washington's Shakespeare Theatre Company, one thing you will learn...to expect the unexpected.

They just finished a sold-out run of the Tony-nominated musical Fela. Last season the Scottish hit play Black Watch was presented.

Now they are presenting a new translation by David Ives of the Jean-Francois Regnard's 1708 comedic masterpiece, the Heir Apparent. (Ives is having a big year. He gets his first shot on Broadway with Venus in Fur at the Friedman Theatre.) You may ask "Who is Regnard?"  You may also ask, "Is it really a masterpiece?"

David Ives summed up the playwright's history like this. "As your average young man of 23 gadding about the world he was taken prisoner in 1778 by Algerian pirates, sold into slavery, did six months' hard labor, got ransamed and when arrived home hung his slave-chains on the wall of his Paris house.  After a cushy Treasury job, he launched himself as a comic playwright at age 38 and became the Next Big Thing after Moliere." Even Ives admits when STC Artistic Director sent him the play for a possible adaptation, he had never heard of Regnard.  So everyone...don't feel so bad.

Called Le Legataire Universel, it has been performed at the Comedie Francaise more than 1,000 times.

I was laughing so hard at times, my wife Lisa had to hit me so she could hear the lines.  I ended up buying an autographed copy of of the play sold at the STC's gift shop and I'm so happy I did.  I had missed so much.

If you google French farce, the Heir Apparent should be there.

The plot is fairly simple. A rich old miser. Geronte, has kept his money somewhere in his home.  His nephew Eraste desperately wants to marry Isabelle, but needs to secure an inheritance from his uncle who is quickly failing and has hired a lawyer to write his will.  The problem is that Geronte plans on passing his money to many different heirs (including one in America) and also wants to wed Isabelle himself.  What is one to do in such a malaise??? You have a clever servant named Crispin who after learning about Geronte's supposed demise, plans to impersonate the old miser, convince the lawyer (who has never met Geronte) to write a will with Eraste listed as the sole heir to the fortune.  Ya got it??  That's the story in a nutshell.  There is laugher galore and even a pig who almost steals the show.

Here's a taste. Crispin's love, Lisete is caring for Geronte.

She says:

"Well gold alone won't help the old man thrive. I thought last night would be his last alive

For twenty times he fell into a swoon

And lay as lifeless as a pitted prune..."

Kahn directed this fun play and has assembled a superb cast.

Carson Elrod makes his STC debut as the craft young servant Crispin. His impersonation of Geronte alone is worth the price of admission.

STC Affiliated Artist Floyd King has the joy of playing Geronte.

Isabelle's mother, Madame Argante, is played by STC Affiliated Artist Nancy Robinette and gives another memorable performance.

Andrew Veenstra plays Eraste, Meg Chambers Steedle is the beautiful Isabelle, Kelly Hutchinson has so much fun as Lisete, and Clark Middleton plays the lawyer Scruple (a fitting name for a lawyer?).

Much credit goes to the design team: Alexander Dodge (Scenic Design), Phillip Rosenberg (Lighting Design), Murell Horton (the terrific Costume Designer) and Adam Wernick (Music, which at times reminded me of the lovely score of the film "Tom Jones".)

STC wants to attract a younger audience and to help in this endeavor, they have $15 seats available for those under 35.

Much of the play is in rhyme. The Washington Post's Peter Marks did his entire review in rhyme which I highly recommend.  He ends his review as follows: "So raise a flute to writers past, Whose names we lose but dramas last. And let's hope somewhere he has news, His work can still get good reviews." Kudos Mr. Marks.

For tickets, call 202-547-1122 or visit www.shakespearetheatre.org.

The play at the Lansburgh Theatre, 450 7th St. NW runs until Oct. 23.

For comments, write to cgshubow@broadwayworld.com.

Musical The Boys from Syracuse to be presented Nov. 4-6 at Sidney Harmon Hall

The wonderful musical The Boys from Syracuse will be getting a concert-style staging Nov. 4-6 at Sidney Harmon Hall.

Featuring a classic score by Rodgers and Hart, the book has been adapted by, you guessed it, David Ives. He's a busy man!!! STC Associate Director Alal Paul will direct this special anniversary concert. The cast features many with Broadway credits: Anastasia Barzee, Alexander Gemignani. Leslie Kritzer, and Michael McGrath.

Photo Credit: Scott Suchman



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