Monday, April 27, 2015





By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

Who knew there were so many rhymes in English? David Ives, that's who.  The supersmart playwright whose plays have had recent local productions (New Jerusalem, Venus in Fur, and The Liar--could three plays be more different?), gives his devoted fans a new and hilarious show, The Heir Apparent.  

Ives' adaptation from an 18th century French comedy by Jean-Francois Regnard, is written entirely in rhyme, performed by a cast as adept at physical comedy as they are at verbal acrobatics.

Director John Rando keeps the show filled with crude sight gags as well as verbal wit, where "venomous" rhymes with "enemas" (diarrhea becomes a theme) and "dowager" rhymes with "Howitzer," and "gaucher" rhymes with "kosher," and there are three little pigs named Julie.

Here's an excessive sample:

This is the basilisk, Madame Argante!

She whom the Prince of Darkness couldn't daunt.

She next to whom a rock looks nonchalant.

Who makes Godzilla seem a mad bacchante.

To whom Attila is a dilettante.

The plot is the usual Comedie Francaise formula: an old miser named Geronte (Paxton Whitehead) has a nephew Eraste (Dave Quay) who wants him to write a will making him the sole heir to his fortune, thus letting him marry the adorable Isabelle (Amelia Pedlow).  In charge of the elaborate dupings are the clever servant Crispin (Carson Elrod) and the maid Lisette (Claire Karpen).  In the course of various and devious shenanigans, there is a hilariously tiny lawyer named Scruple (David Pittu) and the aforementioned dowager (Suzanne Bertish).

There is not a weak link or a dropped syllable or a missed chance for a laugh among them.


At Classic Stage Company, 136 E.13th Street, New York. Through May 4.

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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