Monday, February 16, 2015

The Metromaniacs Theatre Review

Dina Thomas and Adam LeFevre (r) star in The Metromaniacs

Fun with Fizzy French Farce
by Susan Barocas (Contributing Editor)

The Metromaniacs is not, as we're told early in the play, a show about people who are crazy for subways, although that sounds like another interesting possibility. No, the characters in this fresh 18th century comedy are crazy mad for poetry, which tumbles out of the actors’ mouths so quickly and with such ease, that you’re not sure if you really heard that rhyme of “ciao bella” with “fella,” or “week” with “tweet.” And sometimes you get no help from your fellow audience members, whose laughing all around you could bury a line or two.

But don’t worry if you aren’t following the action on stage clearly, moment by moment. In the sacred tradition of French farces, The Metromaniacs entertains with a delightfully twisted plot (or several plots) - exaggerated performances, that unashamedly go for laughs and playful physical humor (AKA buffoonery.) No one is in love with who they think they love; or maybe they are, if they could just figure out who is who, amid the disguises, scheming servants and mistaken identities.

 Anthony Roach, LeFevre & Christian Conn (r) Photo: Scott Suchman

The story goes something like this: The young poet Damis (Christian Conn) slightly eccentric and totally obsessed with poetry, has fallen for the works of a mysterious poetess, not knowing “she” is really his host, the middle-aged gentleman Francalou (Adam LeFevre.) Francalou’s daughter Lucille (Amelia Pedlow) likes Dorante (Anthony Roach) the son of his sworn enemy, so the father allows Damis to believe his daughter is the poetess, causing the earnest young poet to pursue her.

Lucille, who positively swoons at rhyming verse, is fun to watch... a combination of valley girl and aloof, aristocratic brat, spiced with a touch of Kardashian sexpot. It’s even more fun when her much smarter maid Lisette (Dina Thomas) dresses up and pretends to be Lucille. Her scenes with Damis' valet, Mondor (Michael Goldstrom) are reminiscent of Lucy and Desi, with the gender roles reversed. Oh, and Desi always has sex (rather than the show) on his mind.

The set-within-a-set is true to the period; and the costumes are nicely done. But at the heart of The Metromaniacs experience, are the words. David Ives has reinterpreted and reimagined the 1738 farce, La M├ętromanie by Alexis Piron, one of the most widely produced comic writers of his time. As Ives says in the program, these are “characters, drunk on language.” This means spot-on timing is needed for success; and the cast delivers on Ives’s script, which includes such contemporary references as schlemiel, tweet and Britney Spears. You’ll see: Somehow, they do work.

STC’s fascination with poetry is extending beyond the stage with an innovative new program, Poets are Present in conjunction with The Metromaniacs. The Company is hosting over 30 local poets in February and March, for one-hour poetry residencies (before curtain) in the theater lobby at selected performances. The poets will discuss poetry, write original pieces and share their work with audience participation. Following the production, every audience member will be emailed a sample of the poet’s work.

A word of advice: To really enjoy The Metromaniacs, you have to know what you’ve come to the theater for. It’s all about the joy of being in love with love, and the twists & turns of language. It works well, provided that you suspend your 21st century need for realism, exactness and deep meaning.

Sometimes you want a long, cool drink; and sometimes, you want a quick burst of bubbly refreshment. The Metromaniacs gives you bubbles that tickle and entertain; and since when, is leaving the theater in a good mood a bad thing?

The Metromaniacs (1 hour, 45 minutes) plays at the Lansburgh Theatre through March 8th. Click here for showtimes, and/or to purchase tickets.

Grade: B+