Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Also see Rebecca's review of Matilda the Musical
Based on Jean-François Regnard's 1708 comedy Le Légataire universel, David Ives' 2011 adaptation keeps the original setting and formal couplets, but updates the language and cultural references. The result is a farce that revels in the juxtapositions between refinement and crassness, classic and modern, authentic and absurd. In Lantern Theatre's Philadelphia premiere production, director M. Craig Getting brings out the humor in these contradictions and makes the most of every fart sound, shameless pun, and short joke.
The plot centers around Geronte (Leonard C. Haas is marvelously decrepit), a flatulent old miser who appears ready to drop dead at any second. Geronte's nephew Eraste (dramatic dandy Chris Anthony) is smitten with a sweet beauty named Isabelle (an adorably mischievous Ruby Wolf) and they desperately wish to marry. The problem is that Isabelle's mother, Madame Argante (a grand and formidable Mary Martello), will only consent to their marriage if Geronte names Eraste the sole heir to his vast fortune.
When things do not go as planned, Eraste is ready to throw up his hands in despair, but his cunning servant Crispin (the extremely funny Dave Johnson) has a trick or two up his sleeve. Crispin's intended is Eraste's servant Lisette (Lee Minora is saucy and delightfully impertinent) and together the four lovers hatch a plot to change Geronte's mindor at least his will. Loophole-size lawyer Scruple (Adam Hammet) gets thrown into the tumult when he arrives to draft the much debated document.
Because the production is quite intimate the audience gets to feel like they are part of this cheerful mayhem. Geronte's sitting room is appropriately aristocratic thanks to Lance Kniskern's lovely set design, but it is hard to stage a farce with the audience on three sides and there are a few moments when the physical comedy gets a bit muddied. Marla Jurglanis' costume designs are fun and extravagant, and perfectly on point.
There is a lot of grist for social commentary in the setupidle rich men, scheming servants, antiquated marriage contracts, and a relentless quest for wealthbut the moral here is really incidental. The witty lines, silly schemes, and ridiculous japes are what Ives' play is really all about. In other words, The Heir Apparent is content to be an irreverent comedy and a rollicking good time. And that is more than enough.
The Heir Apparent, December 16, 2018, at Lantern Theater Company, St. Stephen's Theater, 10th & Ludlow Streets, Philadelphia PA. For information and tickets, visit www.lanterntheater.org or call 215-829-0395.
Director: M. Craig Getting