If someone asked me to use a single word to describe The Metromaniacs, the play that just opened at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey at Drew University, in Madison, that’s what I’d say.
If they asked me for a two word description it would be very wacky.
The Metromaniacs is set in the early part of the 18th century in beautiful Paris when the aristocrats in the French capital were wild about poetry and the men and women who wrote it. It was the hard rock music of its day. The play is about a man who is writing a poem/play and trying to put everybody he knows into the play as a character. There are, according to the author, five plots in the play, but you would need a detective to find any of them (TV’s Columbo could not fine one, either).
The Metromaniacs has no plot, no real major character and not much of a set. I was adapted by David Ives from the 1738 production. The French author was Alexis Piron.
It is hilarious, though, a thoroughly enjoyable night in Paris and in Madison, too. I could not stop laughing, especially when author David Ives hurls current day people and references not in the story (such as U.S. singer Britney Spears when discussing the French geographic region of Brittany). There are men engaged in a duel with blank pistols. A man says that the ‘metro’ in the title refers to the New Yor k City subway system. Men are in love with two different women, but it is not clear who is who or who isn’t who. One scene is crazier than the other.
The play starts with the wooing of a French girl, Lisette, by two men. Or is the French girl Lucille (the cover girl for Botox). Then the play goes just plain nuts. Is she really Lisette or is she really Lucille? Is the man who is who is wooing her the real wooer? Is the other a wooer and a wooee or just the wooer before he was the wooee?
And what is a wooee anyway?
Who is Mondor, the flamboyant playboy who wanders into the play and seems out of touch with the world, and the entire plot, and each character, until the final scene. Why does the middle aged man who is writing a play, Francalou, keep trying to put everybody in the story into his play? Who is he, anyway?
Who really is the old man who is given a part in Francalou’s play which requires him to howl, as in H-O-W-L? and continues to HOWL as LOUDLY as he can throughout the story.
Who is Damis, another playwright, or is he really a playwright? He is actually, well, who is he?
The play has no goal. It is plotless. It has no meaning, no point. Yet, you can’t take your eyes and ears off of it. You are hooked, right from the start.
You’ve just got to love wackiness after this show, majestically, and I mean majestically, directed by Brian B. Crowe (oh, he really is Brian B. Crow)
When will the play in the play ever be written? And by who? Is the playwright writing the play in the play really the playwright? Is this play really a play?
There are a million sublots in the play, all of which go nowhere. Director Crowe gets wonderful performance from his troupe of actors. On stage, it seems as if there are at least 12,000 actors in the show, but it is just seven.
The talents of the actors make all of the characters come to life so that you see them as people, no matter who they are or who they are trying to be, or understood to be, or even misunderstood to be.
First, there is Francalou, the host, the man who is writing what appears to be an endless play. He twists and turns and creates the centerpiece of the story. He is played wonderfully by Brent Harris. DeShawn White as Lisette and Billie Wyatt as Lucillle are the two lovely women in the play. The unexplainable Mondor is played by Austin Kirk. Christian Frost is Damis, or is it really Damis? Ty Lane is Dorante John Ahlin is the old howler Baliveau. Individually, they are oowerful and collectively a treasure.
The only thing this play also needed was Abbott and Costello and the cast of Seinfeld.
I can just see Kramer in 1738, can’t you? Parlez vous Jerry?
Oh, wait. Wait. I can hear Baliveau HOWLING in the parking lot in front of my condo building.
The Metromaniacs is on stage through September 4th. Click here for ticket information.
PHOTOS BY SARAH HALEY