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Regional Reviews: San Diego

The Metromaniacs
The Old Globe
Review by Bill Eadie | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's review of Guards at the Taj


Christian Conn, Cary Donaldson, and Amelia Pedlow
Photo by Jim Cox
La Métromanie, the title of Alexis Piron's 1738 play, translates to English as The Poetry Craze. And contemporary playwright David Ives has brought that craze up to the minute in his English adaptation, titled The Metromaniacs.

Written in rhymed couplets, this lighthearted comedy of manners wades into familiar territory for those familiar with French comedy of the period. Set at the Francalou home in Paris, the story centers around a pair of friends, Damis (Christian Conn) and Dorante (Cary Donaldson), who arrive with aim of courting the Francalou daughter Lucille (Amelia Pedlow). But they encounter a scene where little is as it seems: there is a fake garden that has been assembled in the house, and the residents have assumed fake identities, most prominently Lucille's maid Lisette (Dian Thomas), becoming a doppelgänger for her mistress, and Francalou himself (Adam LeFevre) taking a woman's pen name for the poetry he has been writing. Add Mondor, Damis's hot-to-trot valet (Michael Goldstrom) and, eventually, Baliveau, Damis's severe uncle (Peter Kybart), to the mix, and the stage is set for genteel farce, based on these mix-ups.

Mr. Ives continues his success in adapting French comedy, and his string of plays featuring rhymed couplets includes The Heir Apparent, School for Lies, and The Liar. See a pattern here? It seems to work, and Ives gets to have lots of fun with creative rhyming and many references to contemporary culture.

To make it all happen, though, you have to find a director who knows how to keep a verse play set in the 18th century light on its feet. Enter Michael Kahn, Julliard theatre professor and artistic director of Washington, D.C.'s Shakespeare Theatre. Mr. Kahn is an old hand at these kinds of tales, and his production is assured, well-paced, and, once it gets underway, very funny. It was a hit at the Shakespeare Theatre and there's no reason it shouldn't be a hit at The Old Globe.

Mr. Kahn has brought along his creative team (James Noone, scenic design; Murell Horton, costume design; Mark McCullough, lighting design; and Matt Tierney, sound design), and they all do fine work with a spring-like palette.

Several of the actors appeared in the Washington version as well. Mr. Conn anchors the production as a poet who hopes to win his way into the Francalou family through his abilities at verse. Mr. Goldstrom, who plays the valet, has a palpable chemistry with Mr. Conn that gets the story off to a good start. Likewise, Ms. Pedlow and Ms. Thomas were featured in the D.C. premiere. They wear the same dress, and Ms. Thomas's balder style provides a nice contrast to Ms. Pedlow's romantic reticence. The other actors are new to this production, and Mr. Donaldson stands out in particular as the suitor who has to strain for poetic ability.

Benjamin Cole and Connor Sullivan play non-speaking roles as servants and understudy Mr. Conn and Mr. Donaldson.

Having enjoyed many of Mr. Kahn's productions during the eight years I lived in Washington, D.C., I came into The Metromaniacs with high expectations. I was not disappointed.

The Old Globe, in association with Shakespeare Theatre Company, presents The Metromaniacs by David Ives, adapted from Alexis Piron's La Métromanie. Performs Tuesday – Sunday through March 6, 2016, at the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage of The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego's Balboa Park. Tickets are available by calling (619) 23-GLOBE [234-5623], or by visiting www.theoldglobe.org.

- Bill Eadie


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