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."