‘The Heir Apparent’: A fine time for rhyme

September 13, 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.

The Heir Apparent

Adapted by David Ives from the comedy by Jean-Francois Regnard. Directed by Michael Kahn. Set, Alexander Dodge; costumes, Murell Horton; lighting, Philip Rosenberg; composer, Adam Wernick; sound, Christopher Baine; voice and text, Ellen O’Brien. With Clark Middleton, Meg Chambers Steedle. About two hours. Through Oct. 23 at Lansburgh Theatre, 450 Seventh St. NW. Visit www.shakespeare-theatre.org or call 202-547-1122.

Peter Marks joined the Washington Post as its chief theater critic in 2002. Prior to that he worked for nine years at the New York Times, on the culture, metropolitan and national desks, and spent about four years as its off-Broadway drama critic.
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