What does one get when crossing an 18th-century play satirizing Voltaire, a rhyming dictionary, bubblegum and a modern playwright known for such works as Variations on the Death of Trotsky?
The answer is David Ives’ The Metromaniacs. Rohnert Park’s Spreckels Theatre Company has a production running through Dec. 17.
Set in 18th-century France, this loose adaptation of Alexis Piron’s La Métromanie is a silly comedy of mistaken identity, true love, and of course, poetry.
Rich aristocrat Francalou (Edward McCloud), aided by his sassy maid Lisette (Sarah Dunnavant), is throwing a party/play opening to find his disinterested daughter Lucille (Mercedes Murphy) a beau. Invited guests include Francalou’s protege Cosmo (Brady Voss) and his poetic rival Damis’ grumpy uncle Baliveau (Khalid Shayota). Crashing the party are Damis’ manservant Mondor (Tajai Britten) and Francalou’s sworn enemy’s son Dorante (Keith Baker), who has disguised himself to win Lucille’s hand.
Director Kevin Bordi has made some strong casting choices, notably Voss. His keen grasp of farcical humor and never-flagging enthusiasm drive the plot and keep scenes moving that might otherwise be bogged down by the overwhelming amount of exposition. Most importantly, he also has great chemistry with McCloud. For those familiar with McCloud’s normal body of work, this is a fun, refreshingly delightful and well-acted departure from the realistic dramas with which he is normally associated.
Murphy and Dunnavant are talented actors with a lot of stage presence who will hopefully be seen more frequently on local stages. Both are natural and deliver the broad humor and bawdy ridiculousness required of this show.
While the cast is good overall, the production values are slightly confusing. Set designer Andrew Patton has positioned the beautifully detailed set so it blocks the required fire exit signs and obstructs action for those not in the center section. Costumes by Adriana Gutierrez are gorgeous. But Gutierrez’s attention to historical detail on everything but the shoes makes the distinctive footwear seem like an afterthought instead of a storytelling device. Similarly, Nick Lovato’s projections are professional but detract from the good work on the stage, undermining the actors instead of supporting them.
All that being said, this is a fun show. So, for those looking for an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours without acknowledging a certain holiday to which every other theater has given themselves over, then this show is the way…as long as they’re okay with rhyming for the rest of the day.
‘The Metromaniacs’ runs through Dec. 17 at Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. Thurs – Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2pm; $14 – $34. 707.588.3400. spreckelsonline.com.