The Metromaniacs, Shakespeare Theatre Company
I solemnly swear that there will be no rhyming couplets in this review.
I'm not blind. I try to write my reviews from my own, unadulterated opinion, but I've seen what's up. Couplets have ABOUNDED across the internet as critics review the Shakespeare Theatre Company's The Metromaniacs, from tweets to blogs to newsprint. I have firmly resolved not to join them. To my readers, I make this vow: any rhymes contained herein will be unintentional. Prose as far as the eye can see,
that's what you'll get from me.
It's not surprising, of course, that other writers have been compelled to resort to rhyme. As in his previous adaptations of French comedies for the Shakespeare Theatre, adaptor David Ives has written Metromaniacs entirely in couplets. For the first time, however, the device feels fitting, rather than schticky. Ives's source material is La M étromanie by Alexis Piron, a frothy descent into the charms of meter, and the follies and foibles of those who immerse themselves into poetry's cult.
While poetry (and, indeed, the playwriting that follows from it) seems an unlikely target for romantic obsessions nowadays, the utterly charming cast assembled by director Michael Kahn takes the comic conceit and runs with it. Of course, clever work by costume designer Murell Horton helps the audience to believe that poetry could reduce us all to artful swoons and bring in heaps of money- it's a good reminder of how effective design can be when one pair of hipster glasses and some artfully swooped, disheveled hair tells us everything we need to know about Christian Conn's young poet Damis and of the world he inhabits.
There's so much to be charmed by in Kahn's production. He displays a masterful touch with farce and physical comedy, doling out these moments in the precise amounts at the perfect point. The cast is very appealing, from the wry Dina Thomas as the maid Lisette, to Amelia Pedlow's Lucille, dripping with the insouciance of youth. It's a pleasure to see Anthony Roach back at STC, and his Dorante- a character utterly lacking in poetic panache- abounds with considerable élan and appeal.
The Metromaniacs is a wonderful way to beguile a few hours, brimming with charm and good humor. The play is ably constructed, nimbly produced and paced, and the jokes fly fast. See it, enjoy it, and do your best to avoid rhyme once you emerge from the Lansburgh Theatre; my bet is, you'll find that just as hard as I have, but your smile will probably be as broad as mine.