The Heir Apparent
Also see Susan's reviews of The Boy Detective Fails and The Hollow
Director Michael Kahn and his seven-member cast strike all the appropriate notes in this tale of love and money, adapted from a 1708 work by the French playwright Jean-François Regnard. If some of the plot elements seem familiarone need look no farther than Molière's The Imaginary Invalid and The MiserIves gives them a fresh twist. (And who knew the movie Weekend at Bernie's had an 18th-century antecedent?)
Handsome but poor Eraste (Andrew Veenstra) is in love with Isabelle (Meg Chambers Steedle), daughter of imperious Madame Argante (Nancy Robinette), but he lacks the money to marry her. Eraste's wealthy uncle, Geronte (Floyd King), has been moldering on his deathbed for some time and is finally ready to make his will. How can the young lovers ensure that Eraste will inherit the whole pile of money? That's where his servant, Crispin (Carson Elrod), and the old man's maid, Lisette (Kelly Hutchinson), come in.
Elrod dazzles in the star role of Crispin, the clever servant who calls himself "a one-man Comédie Francaise." The character's improvisations and impersonations drive the plot, so the audience watches as Crispin shifts guisesin secondsfrom a zany backwoodsman in fringed buckskin and coonskin cap to the pudgy heiress to a pig farm. (Murell Horton has designed the lavish costumes, which range from the elegant to the absurd.)
King continues his tradition of shamelessly stealing every scene in which he appears (his bronchial coughs just keep getting funnier), while Robinette is a delight as yet another slightly addled would-be grande dame.
The humor is often crude, but always elegantly phrased: for example, in the midst of a great many anatomical comments, Lisette says of Geronte that "His bowels are the only part that moves." The incongruous references to Godzilla, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, soccer moms, and national health insurance just add to the laughs. It all runs like clockworkand, in fact, a large, wheezing clock is a highlight of Alexander Dodge's opulently cluttered scenic design.
Shakespeare Theatre Company