Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
In keeping with the theme of people besotted by words, Ives has written the play in rhymed couplets bubbling with wit both timeless and anachronistic. Keeping the plot and character interactions straight might require a flow chart, but none of that matters in Michael Kahn's polished production.
Piron took his inspiration from an incident involving Voltaire's high regard for the works of a mysterious female poet who turned out not to be what she seemed. (Literary misrepresentation scandals predate the Internet and television tastemakers.) In this adaptation, Ives' seven characters love language above all and also become besotted with one another, so the complications pile up as circumstances force them to assume false identities.
Damis (Christian Conn) has set aside his career in the law to write poetry, but he bows before the skill of a woman from remote Brittany (the excuse for a lamentable pun) whom he longs to meet. Lucille (Amelia Pedlow), wealthy and a bit neurasthenic, dotes on poetry to the exclusion of her many suitors. Lucille's father Francalou (Adam LeFevre) decides to write and stage a playassisted by Lisette the sassy maid (Dina Thomas)to show his daughter the foolishness of her ways. The other characters are Damis's valet Mondor (Michael Goldstrom); Dorante (Anthony Roach), friend of Damis and immediately enamored of Lucille despite his lack of literary skill; and Damis's prickly uncle Baliveau (Peter Kybart).
The cast members work together as smoothly as parts of a machine, with a few standouts; Pedlow shines as Lucille undergoes a startling personality change, Conn seems to move in different directions simultaneously as he attempts to maintain three different identities, and Goldstrom conveys the joy of a man who, through no effort of his own, finds himself the target of romantic pursuit.
Murell Horton's richly detailed costumes brighten the stage while James Noone's sumptuous scenic design glories in the artificiality of two-dimensional set pieces befitting the 18th-century setting.
Shakespeare Theatre Company