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A CurtainUp DC Review
The Heir Apparent
But be warned: the dialogue is fast, the jokes are crude, the sight gags are ridiculously funny and the plot is old. And yet it works. Oh, boy, does it work.
Geronte (played with great skill by Floyd King) is a miserable miser who lives in a splendid mansion (Alexander Dodge's set is formidable). Geronte is old, he thinks he's dying, he has no will and "potential" heirs keep appearing. Each has about as much right as the others to the misanthrope's considerable fortune. That is to say, there is no rightful heir, a situation that leads to . . . game on!
Ruses, lies, silly costumes, a chase or two that include a spectacular nose dive out the chateau's window ensue. But don't count Geronte out . . .yet.
Nancy Robinette (Washington's go-to ditzy dame for farces French and other) as Madame Argante (the name is a pun on the French word argent, meaning "money") delivers her marvelous lines with splendid comic timing. She is dressed in a style that might be called Over-Over-the-Top by the inventive costume designer Murell Horton who is equally triumphant dressing three characters as pigs. It helps too that Ives describes sows as wearing their suckling piglets "like a necklace."
Ives challenges the audience to keep up with his one-liners, some of which are relevant to today. When Madame Argante is confronted with the proposition that wealth is to be shared her exclamation, given front and center stage, is "that's socialism." (Huge laugh from the Shakespeare Theatre's educated and liberal-leaning audience.) Scuple, the lawyer, played with less-than-perfect diction by Clark Middleton, is the brunt (or maybe one should say runt, since the character calls for someone who is very short, which Middleton is) of many lawyer jokes.
There's little respite from laughing out loud. In one aside to the audience, Ives (a one-man Comèdie Francaise) has his characters insult the theater's patrons. (Another huge laugh.) This witty wordsmith really is the American answer to England's Tom Stoppard and that is very high praise indeed. An evening with The Heir Apparent is pure pleasure.
A word or two about the program notes, meant one assumes for the audience not theater professionals: In a section headed "About the Playwright" an author, not named, (one suspects a scholar who is showing off to his/her mates) states: "Plays such as The Heir Apparent exhibit a veritable litany of verse tactics -- clever stichomythic exchanges, internal rhymes and rhymed refrains, alliterative and assonant passages, etc. . ." I can cope with most of that but if anyone cares to illuminate I'd be most grateful. Merci. SD.
Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show
Slings & Arrows-the complete set
You don't have to be a Shakespeare aficionado to love all 21 episodes of this hilarious and moving Canadian TV series about a fictional Shakespeare Company