I have been an admirer of David Ives for a long time, once even approached him to work together after I saw All in the Timing,his first ‘hit’, a collection of shorts which displayed his gift for gab and pacing. If Balanchine was the master of the quick- stepped ballet, Ives is the king of quick-witted theater. Ives does not believe in letting you get bored or think about how long the line will be at the bathroom during the interval. Ives worked with Roman Polanski on an adaptation of his also spectacular Venus in Fur which was much,much better as a play(though I understood the temptation.)
Now Ives has rediscovered a Moliere-ish/Feydau-ish French farce by the largely forgotten Alexis Piron from 1738 which depends on mistaken identity, painted wooden glades, convoluted verse, pushed-up poitrines, and impeccable comic timing. The Metromaniacs has all this and more. Ives has made a silk purse out of an obscure play by an author who could not get into the Comedie Francaise, wholly reinventing, in English, a story of love, betrayal, jurisprudence, class, and alls-fair-in-love-and-war filled with nonsensical rhymes-- which make perfect sense. Double entendres, loopy-ended couplets, he is calling it a ‘transladaptation”. Whatever you call it, it is very engaging, fleet of foot and mouth, and altogether worth seeing unless farce is not at all your thing. Describing the plot would take too long, and spoil the fun.
The cast is uniformly brilliant. A ditzy maid, Dina Thomas who reminded me of Bette Midler, a ditzy heiress, Amelia Pedlow who reminded me of Marilyn Monroe, and Christian Conn, Noah Averbach-Katz, Adam Green and Adam Lefervre as the misguided gentlemen. But the star of the show is Ives’s wordplay. It’s at the Red Bull Theater at the Duke on 42ndStreet until May 26.