A call has been issued throughout Washington DC to all the dames and dandies
Grab your tickets, get your seats; don’t forget your drinks and candies
A troupe of actors, performers in tights, as you’ll read here on this page
Perform for you an evening’s comedy; they shall traipse across the stage.
Shakespeare Theatre Company, running David Ives’s new comic jewel
The Metromaniacs, an uproarious delight! Don’t miss out, you fool!
A greater gift will be hard to find, especially as far as plays go,
When this one has the perfect performance, right here— incognito!
Disguised of course as a metaplay; this farce is anything but plain,
Of course, I’ll stop these couplets here; too much poetry drives one insane!
Taking the stage by hilarious force, under the talented direction of Michael Kahn, this new comedy by acclaimed playwright David Ives has the audience all but screaming with comic glee as a romantic farce of poets and mistaken identities runs feverishly wild across the stage of the Lansburgh this midwinter season. Adapted from La Mètromanie by Alexis Piron, this French farce features rhyming couplets aplenty, sexual innuendo abound, and a fabulous drop-in forest that’s simply too stunning for words. A complete blast of genius; The Nymphomaniacs The Metromaniacs is love and lust and entertainment for anyone with a sense of humor.
I say! Is that a forest in your set? Scenic Designer James Noone fabricates a most resplendent set serving its dual purpose onto the Lansburgh Theatre Stage. A glorious French ballroom with all of the trappings of a fancy wealthy owner juxtaposed against an artificial forest that springs up from the parquet of the Parisian tiled floor. The ballroom is rounded and carries an old world charm in its existence. Noone laces elements of whimsy into the design blending fantasy with reality in the same fashion that Ives brings the essence of a metaplay into the show. With such lavish settings, Noone’s design work sets the bar high for the performers; a bar which they far surpass in their racy and uproarious comical endeavors.
Murell Horton furthers the scope of enchantment and whimsy with the marvelous array of fanciful costumes that populate the performance. Sticking with the time period the shiny buckled shoes are a delicate compliment to some of the more lavishly designed threads, particularly when it comes to the master of the house and his visitors. Horton procures pinks and purples a plenty for Dorante and Lucille, leaving the airier colors of sky blue and silver for the flighty-minded poet, Damis. Putrid electric mustard even comes into play for Mondor, once he’s taken on a role in the play, within the play of course. On the whole the costumes are as entertaining as the performers who wear them; Horton proving to be an exceptional designer of fantastical realism when it comes to costumes appropriate for the time.
Ives’ writing is comedic brilliance incarnate. With sliding rhymes and sarcastic wit laced into a great deal of the rhyming couplets throughout it is impossible to attend the performance and not laugh. Sore sounds aplenty for those who enjoy high-end intellectual wit, and physical comedic relief for those who enjoy more lowbrow humor. Ives has captured the essence of a perfect comedy; all-inclusive, with farcical elements, mistaken identities, puns, wordplays, and more. And he does it all while rhyming; a truer genius to the genre of humor has yet to be seen upon the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s stage.
Masterfully handling the explosive wit-crackers of Ives’ play is Director Michael Kahn. Assisted by Vocal and Textual Coach Ellen O’Brien, and Period Movement Consultant Frank Ventura, Kahn skillfully executes a phenomenal production that entertains the audience for hours. O’Brien’s painstaking precision when it comes to vocal and textual guidance results in hilarity being uncovered in even the subtlest of jokes. Nuances of comedy are carved intricately throughout the text of the play and O’Brien ensures that their delivery is potent, packing punches of laughter. Ventura assists the aesthetic of the characters; a shambling tottering gait for Francalou, energetic bursts of dashing about for Mondor and Lisette. Ventura and Kahn also develop a hysterical approach to stage violence; watch the slaps and try not to laugh.
Now here’s the part of things that can get quite sticky
With character deceptions, just who is who is tricky!
There’s Lisette, the servant girl, who attends dear Lucille,
Though she’s aloof and apathetic, Lucy’s looks draw appeal!
Mondor is the man running around delivering trouble
Watch out, as he goes in disguise on the double.
There’s Damis and Dorante, who can tell them apart?
Both wooing the same girl, they’re after her heart
Add a crotchety old judge, his name’s Baliveau
With nom de plumes and incognitos— you’ll need a map for who’s who!
Ah, but let’s not forget in whose house the mess does stew
Why, the secretive poet, Monsieur Francalou!
Enough with the rhyming, and back on to the review
One must live to feel, and these actors sure do!
Peter Kybart is only experienced briefly, but his howling and groaning as the disgruntled judge Baliveau will keep you in stitches just the same. Facing off with his wayward nephew, Damis the plot thickens and muddles around the play-within-a-play scene that these two performers share. Teetering about as an enraged old man, Kybart succeeds in making his cameo performance in this production memorable, particularly when blustering on at the mouth with dear old Francalou (Adam LeFerve) about his ungrateful nephew and all of the trouble he’s caused. These revelations, delivered with rigid severity, become comic fodder that sends the audience into uncontrollable bouts of laughter as the truth is revealed to onlookers.
LeFerve is a comic underdog in this population of witty mouthpieces who are forever spouting off when they enter a scene. Though he is the master of the house, the narrator of the play, and a good grounding point through which all the action flows, LeFerve’s character accomplishes more in his cross-scene moments than any lengthy period spent on stage. Dedicated with determination to his character’s physicality, LeFerve delivers a stupendously well-rounded portly gentleman in his aging prime.
Keeping track of Christian Conn, playing the wannabe poet Damis, and Anthony Roach, who plays the equally dashing but just as conning Dorante, becomes a game of sorts. Both incognito, one as Cosmos de Cosmos— a synonym for empty space which Conn plays up without exception— and the other as Erast, the entanglement of mistaken identity augments the comic moments exponentially as the play progresses. The pair faces off often, particularly once the women get involved in the show. Both men do lovestruck and twitterpated exceptionally well; it is difficult to say who drools harder over Lucille. Or Lisette. Or women that don’t’ even exist.
Conn engages the poetic verse of the show with vigor. When he starts his monologue, which borders on a soliloquy, near the end of the show about his play it’s a veritable explosion of every emotion imaginable as he blasts a litany of experiences in waiting to hear the news of how his show was received. Marching to the beat of his own drum during the pistol show down against Dorante, Conn captures the heart of the audience, and the heart of several ladies throughout the performance.
Roach, playing opposite of Conn as one of the ingénue lovers, is equally humors and attacks the poeticism of the show with zesty exuberance. Oversexed and overwrought with his character’s inability to create poetry, Roach is the epitome of young dumb love. A bit like an anxious puppy, he dives headlong into situations without fully assessing them, the result of which is always highly entertaining.
Even with all of their charms and their stellar dashing about, the men hold only meager candles to the women in this production. Lucille (Amelia Pedlow) is a vapid, air-headed bimbo that smacks a bit too reminiscent of a Kim Kardashian/Mean Girls— Karen Smith hybrid. Floating through scenes in a hazy cloud of apathy and slight melancholy, Pedlow is instantly shaken awake once she encounters the men. And once she engages her flirtatious nature— particularly “in the woods” the threads of nymphomania that are threatening to overtake the show’s title become obviously apparent.
Pedlow is a hoot with her character commitment but it’s Dina Thomas, playing the sassy servant girl Lisette, who steals the show hands down. Between creating her own spastic and cheeky servant girl character, and having to mimic the aloof and apathetic nature of Lucille, Thomas gives an exciting and dynamic performance. Her mockery of the valley-girlish “whatevers” when disguised as her mistress are hysterical. Her initial flirting with Mondor (Michael Goldstrom) is punctuated with pizzazz and becomes an on-going inside gag as her flirtations grow and grow.
Goldstrom as the severely excitable servant Mondor, is the comic ringer of the show. Whether he’s racing in to inform his master of approaching trouble, taking up guises to be a part of the show, or just dithering about, his stage presence and command thereof captivates the audience completely. His recap at the top of Act II as to exactly what has happened before the interval is to die for; a funnier moment is hard to find in the performance. Running away with the show’s laughter on the coat tails of his ridiculous mustard colored jacket, Goldstrom is insane in the best way possible, making every line, gesture, movement and moment count to its comedic fullest.
Much more I cannot tell you, for fear of spoiling the show
There’s excitement and there’s laughter, what more could you want to know?
But hurry, my friends, I caution, take heed without delay!
This here is a limited engagement, get your tickets today!
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours with one intermission
The Metromaniacs plays through March 22, 2015 at the Shakespeare Theatre Company on their Lansburgh Theatre Stage— 450 7th Street in Washington, DC. For tickets call the box office at (202) 547-1122 or purchase them online.