Off Broadway Reviews
David Ives' recent plays, a series of "rediscovered" gems of French theatre, translated into English and done in verse, feel like the stage equivalent of a thrilling Jenga game. With each scene, heck, with each new rhyme, Ives sets up an impossible tower that always seems on the verge of collapsing. How can he keep this up? And yet, in The Metromaniacs, which opened on Sunday at The Duke on 42nd Street, Ives goes three for three, with a perfect culmination to his trilogy of The Heir Apparent and The Liar, announcing the arrival of three not-so-new-but-undeniably-fresh comedies.
The Metromaniacs, based on La Metrománie by Alexis Piron, takes place in Paris of 1738, a city that has succumbed to the epidemic of "metromania," an obsession with verse that leads wealthy men to have poets-in-residence in order to get their daily fix. Patient zero might as well be Lucille (Amelia Pedlow) the daughter of Francalou (Adam LeFevre), who has become so obsessed with verse that she is keen on marrying a poet, regardless of the shape he comes in. Little does she know that her own father has bewitched a poet of his own, for Francalou has taken to writing verse under a female pseudonym, leading the poet Damis (Christian Conn) to fall madly in love with this faux Breton goddess.
Damis also happens to be Francalou's poet-in-residence, and yet Francalou despises Damis, who has chosen to give himself a pseudonym to avert any conflict. Added to this, there's also Damis' mischievous valet Mondor (Adam Green) who threatens to blow Damis' cover, and Lucille's devious maid Lisette (Dina Thomas) who likes to stir dirt, more than cleaning it. Before the play is over most of them will have pretended to be someone else, confused one character for the other, or claim to not be who they really are.
The Metromaniacs is screwball at its best, with the entire ensemble working their butts off to deliver Ives' complex, delicious rhymes, and playing off of each other's energy, like an instance on the night I attended where one of the actors broke out of character, eliciting laughs from the audience but also from his scene partner, who purposely broke too, making for one of those moments where theatre going wrong is just so damn good. But the show, in its own way, is also quite insightful about the nature of addiction, as it humorously shows the lengths these characters will go to, in order to satiate their need for verse. It never gets dark, no, but it's been haunting me for days after seeing it. A rarity given the fleeting pleasures of most plays I attend.