Editors' pick

The Heir Apparent

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The Heir Apparent photo
Scott Suchman/Shakespeare Theatre Company

Editorial Review

A fine time for rhyme

By Peter Marks
Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011

The other night, while at a play

A woman in a crafty way,

Came up to me and with some cheek

Suggested for my next critique

A novel voice in which to chime:

Could I, she asked, review in rhyme?

It seemed at odds with journo's laws

And could subject me to guffaws

But then I thought: Is it my brief

To give my editors such grief?

Why yes, of course, it must be so!

So fasten seat belts, here we go.

The play we'd seen was "Heir Apparent"

She made the dare; so now I daren't.

It must be said from this point on

That staged by Shakespeare's Michael Kahn,

This "Heir" bequeaths a laugh-filled purse

To those who like their plays in verse.

But if this style makes you think "coma,"

You might just stick with "Oklahoma!"

The work was written in the age

When "Renaissance" just left the stage

And now revised by David Ives,

Whose specialty is bright, new lives

For plays derailed off fashion's tracks

And others fallen through the cracks.

Some may find the wit quite foul

As Ives's jokes favor the bowel

(One may have seen his witty "Liar";

Well, this one lifts the john puns higher)

Though all his modern jibes prove grist

For any sharp anachronist!

And buoyed by an expert cast,

Like Andrew Veenstra's smooth Eraste,

This "Heir" delivers comic shocks

Recalling Gelbart's wild "Sly Fox."

With Floyd King, Nancy Robinette,

Kelly Hutchinson, as maid Lisette;

And Carson Elrod puts his spin

On a daffy sidekick named Crispin.

The actors grandly hold their sway

With this ancient French souffle.

The plot will not seem very deep

Unless you're dim, or drunk, or cheap.

The tale is of a tightwad who

Has never parted with a sou.

The greedy rest conspire to fill

The dole-out sections of his will.

King's a pro; this stage survivor

Can get a laugh with his saliva.

And for her timing: Sans regret,

We bow before Dame Robinette.

(The others are all swell, Lord knows.

Alas, their names are meant for prose.)

The set's delish, by Alex Dodge;

The parlor of a Gallic lodge,

And for the duds they all cavort in,

We thank his mom for Murell Horton.

Thank goodness, too, for Ives's rhythm;

It's his clean style that keeps us with 'em.

The troupe calls this a "world premiere";

Which might be painful to one ear:

Except he's dead, so the canard

Is past concern for M. Regnard.

He's the one who grabbed the quill

And dreamed up Geronte and his will.

So raise a flute to writers past,

Whose names we lose but dramas last.

And let's hope somewhere he has news

His work can still get good reviews.

Backstage: 'The Heir Apparent

By Jessica Goldstein
Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011

Award-winning Broadway playwright David Ives's latest work is an adaptation is of Jean-Francois Regnard's 18th-century comedy "The Heir Apparent." The play, which opened at the Shakespeare Theatre Company on Tuesday night, follows the misadventures of a man who can't get married unless he secures his uncle's inheritance first; unfortunately for him, that inheritance is willed to a number of random, far-flung relatives. Ives adapted Pierre Corneille's "The Liar" for the STC last year. A week before "The Heir Apparent's" opening, Ives spoke about his instant attraction to the text, making his wife laugh and why people who hate French comedy will love this French comedy.

On the appeal of 'The Heir Apparent': "I knew the minute I read it that I wanted to work on it. It was a great gift. It made me laugh, even in the French from 1708. It's a pretty rambunctious, domestic farce. . . . I love the energy of it, the cheapness of it. [Regnard] has a scent for humor which will take him anywhere to find a joke. So sometimes his characters will go off on little dramatic detours and end up with a gold coin of a line."

On playing to the crowd: "It's insane to write for a specific audience. It'll kill you; you'll die on the vine. There is a particular New York brand of humor, full of local references, which I absolutely hate. I sort of cringe when I hear it, because I know that's limiting it for anyone else to enjoy. I just write a comedy to please my wife, to make her laugh. My audience is my wife and myself, the hardest to pry a laugh out of."

On what makes a great comedy: "I'm no good at writing jokes. [I make] the dialogue point us toward delight. . . . What really makes a comedy funny is desperate people in a desperate situation scrambling for money and what you will. The great comedy is human behavior. . . . It has to be a world in which fun is possible, but danger is hanging over you at any moment. . . . Comedy is basically well-placed surprises."

On getting an early start: "I wrote my first play when I was 9 years old. It was a crime novel of 300 pages that I turned into a 10-minute bloodfest."

On exceeding expectations: "The best thing to hear at intermission [is], 'My wife dragged me to this thing, and I love it!' Anybody who hates French comedy, which is . . . a lot of people, will enjoy this."