“The Metromaniacs” could have gone either way. Consider the ingredients: a convoluted story, characters with multiple identities, dialogue written in verse – rhyming couplets for the most part and not a slant rhyme in the batch. There’s so much that could go wrong, I felt relieved when it did not.
Adapted from a 19th Century French piece by the same name, “The Metromaniacs” is designed to generate confusion. Set in Paris in the 1830s, Francalou (Adam LeFevre) is a wealthy man who dabbles in poetry, but is not impressed by the period’s stylings, which idolize the agrarian. The Parisian poetry community feels the same way about his work. So to spoof them, he adopts the popular style under the pen name Meriadec de Peauduncqville.
Francalou has another concern. His daughter, Lucille (Amelia Pedlow) loves poetry but not men. He decides to put on a play in his house to jolt Lucille from her poetic stupor. Two would-be suitors attend: Cosmo de Cosmos (Christian Conn), who (unknown to Francalou) writes under the name Damis, and Dorante (Cary Donaldson) who does not write poetry and is, in fact, a bit thick.
Damis hates Francalou’s poetry but loves de Peauduncqville’s. Francalou is unimpressed with Damis’ work, though his daughter Lucille loves it. Dorante is simply looking for a woman.
More complications are generated by Lucille’s maid Lisette (Dina Thomas), Damis’ valet Mondor (Michael Goldstrom) and Damis’ uncle Baliveau (Peter Kybart).
The relationships get even more confusing as various people assume other identities. Even the play within the play is a recapitulation of the characters. There’s a Shakespearean undercurrent, which is used adeptly to play with expectations. You think you know what’s going to happen and you’re right, occasionally. Ultimately, very little is as it seems. Even the props fool us at times.
Hats off to Ives for taking on such an audacious project and making it work. Many of the rhymes are intentionally drawn-out and silly, essentially spoofing the form. Kahn gets points as well for driving the rapid-fire exchanges and not taking any of it too seriously.
The ensemble cast hits all the right notes, particularly Thomas as Lisette, who appears to be the glue binding the show together. The set – an ersatz forest in Francalou’s drawing room – is beautifully done.
Ultimately, “The Metromaniacs” is self-aware, clever, silly, occasionally bawdy and entirely fun – a nice distraction during this invasive election season.