Review by Kathleen Campion
Playwright David Ives owns up to adapting this predictable period play into a surprising contemporary romp because he fell in love with the title. The Metromaniacs (or La Métromanie if the original French helps). What does it mean? You know what? It doesn’t matter.
Here’s what you need to know: if you know a lot about period drama— French or otherwise — you will be tickled with this adaptation — no fan is left unfluttered, no sight gag overlooked. There’s the doltish suitor, the clever serving wench, and a dash of unawakened libido just teetering on the brink. Ives enlivens it all.
More to the point, if you know nothing about period drama, but love the odd piece on the wrong stretch of 42nd Street (yes, I know, all of you went to the obvious, right? Stop it.), you will still giggle yourself into an unseemly frenzy at The Duke. Worse news, if decorum means anything to you, the giggling continues to the exits as companions cannot resist recapitulating the lines and surprising pratfalls.
This is not a regular play. For one thing, it rhymes, which is fun. It is playful and certainly silly; it is designed to drag you in from the jump, and the play’s own mad momentum keeps you in tow.
In a farce, actors rely on everyone “showing up” on time, on their marks, and in character.
The seven actors here manage that kind of rickety alliance with economy of movement.
Director Michael Kahn slides them all through James Noone’s crowded, modest set, all the while allowing occasional breaches of the fourth wall to recapitulate who is who and where we understand ourselves to be in the various plot points. The breathers are welcome, but, ultimately, like the title, resolving the plot lines, doesn’t matter. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Seven actors share the stage. Christian Conn (Damis) is very winning as the poet-playwright within the poetic-play; his confidence, seeded with splashes of insecurity, conjures up a young Hugh Grant. For his part, Adam Green (Mondor) plays the classic “fool” with more edge than is usual, Dina Thomas (Lisette), the sexy servant who runs the operation, chews a bit of scenery, as she is written to, and displays an outsized gift for comic timing. Adam LeFevre (Francalou – the pater familias) brings a boatload of experience that informs his timing, often pausing for the implications to land. Amelia Pedlow (Lucille) is maybe just funny. (I’m not sure you can learn this.) As the daughter of the household, she might have got stuck in the cliche. Nope! Similarly, Noah Auerbach-Katz (Dorante), the swain, plays his dimness endearingly. Peter Kybart, like Pedlow and Lefevre, has polished his character in the Old Globe production of The Metromaniacs. His outraged uncle sings with small bits of business.
I had such a good time that I’m tempted to say go — go now. One caveat: a lot of the fun here is in loving theater from an insider’s point of view, that is, as an actor or writer or even sweeper. The Metromaniacs relies on every theatrical conceit, thespian cliché, and theater convention. No, I could not quite smell the grease paint, but almost. So unless some of that appeals to you, don’t go. Otherwise, get a gang together and get over there. It’s a short run.
Metromaniacs – By David Ives; directed by Michael Kahn.
WITH: Christian Conn (Damis), Amelia Pedlow (Lucille), Noah Averbach-Katz (Dorante), Dina Thomas (Lisette), Adam Green (Mondor), Adam Lefevre (Francalou), Peter Kybart (Baliveau).
Designed by James Noone; costumes by Murell Horton, Lighting by Betsy Adams, sound by Matt Stine and vocal coach Deborah Hecht. Presented by Red Bull Theater at The Duke, 229 West 42 Street, Manhattan. Through May 26th. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes with one intermission.