Theatre 40 continues to surprise with yet another engaging evening of theatre, presenting the English language adaptation of a French comedy that out-Moliere’s Moliere by his would-be successor, Alexis Piron. Never heard of ‘im? You will not be the first. Apparently, 1738 Piron’s original version is overly-windy and needlessly static and undramatic. However, David Ives has taken the source material and rendered a rollicking comedy of manners worthy of the master.
Under the direction of the accomplished Marjorie Hayes, Theatre Forty members have blossomed into technically proficient performers of poetic doggerel; their every move choreographed by Michelle Bernath. Ives’ own talents have been described (by critic Vincent Canby) as “a master of language.” His delight in words, words, words, lights up the sometimes convoluted plot.
Piron based his story on the French craze for an unschooled poetess from the country who, in the 1730s, took Paris by storm….a sort of ‘Emperor Has No Clothes’ plot. A young poet, Damis (Alec Anderson Carroso) has fallen in love with the work of a mysterious poetess (see description above), who, in reality, is middle-aged Francalou (marvelously played by artistic director David Hunt Stafford), whose daughter, Lucille (Josephine Núñez), is secretly in love with Damis! Are you with me? Add to the mix, a beauteous servant, Lisette (Mandy Fason), and wily butler, Mondor (John Wallace Combs), along with other characters running in and out, and you have a typical French comedy.
The standard Theatre 40 set (by Jeff G. Rack) and lighting (Derrick McDaniel) has been thoroughly Frenchified and the characters adorned with period costuming from Michele Young, with hair and wigs by Judi Lewin. If you’re not afraid of compulsively speaking in couplets for a period of time after viewing this play, you’ll thoroughly enjoy being a “metromaniac.”
The Metromaniacs performs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 2 pm through August 21st. All tickets, $35.00, available online at www.theatre40.com. For reservations, call (310)364-0535.