Quill Theatre brings 18th century Paris to life in its adaptation of David Ives’ comedy ‘The Heir Apparent’
Charming, debonaire Eraste (Matt Bloch) has plenty of love for the lovely (if flighty) Esabelle (Rachel Rose Gilmour). He just doesn’t have the money to marry her.
But stingy, phlegmatic Uncle Geronte [Richard Travis] has plenty of money, and seems on the verge of his deathbed. As Quill’s new production unfolds, Eraste plots to win his uncle’s favor and secure his place as the heir apparent.
There’s just one – or more – problems. His uncle – inspired by Esabelle’s beauty – gets a new lease (or is it lust) on life. Geronte decides he will marry Esabelle instead.
This quick-tempoed, zany comedy is told in pentameter. For those not familiar with the poetic concept, chamber maid Lisette (Sara Heifetz) gives the audience a poetry lesson in rhyme to begin. The 18th century language is littered throughout with modern slang and a few political digs that delight the audience.
Lisette and her beau Crispin (Adam Valentine) come to Eraste’s aid while plotting to ensure their own reward for a lifetime of service to the disagreeable old man.
To complicate the plot, Esabelle’s mother, Madame Argant (Boomie Pedersen) further devises to ensure her daughter will be rich for life. We presume that Madam hopes to benefit from those riches.
As the plot thickens, and the action builds, in comes the diminutive Scruple (Kenneth Putnam), Geronte’s lawyer and the butt of many groan-inducing short jokes.
The show is an acrobatic feat of wordplay and physical comedy that requires an audience to pay attention as the words and action fly about on stage. Audience members should be warned of potential whiplash from the fast-as-lightning literary volleying.
The risk is well rewarded with uniformly outstanding performances. There is potty humor, romance, innuendo and farce all set to rhyme requiring a level of ensemble cohesion impressive to behold.
The production team deserves its own kudos. From stage to set to sound and lighting, VMFA’s Leslie Cheek Theatre is transformed into an 18th century Parisian manor. The theatre itself is a beautiful venue for this smart and sophisticated morality play.
The Heir Apparent is led by guest director Paolo Emilio Landi, an accomplished international theatre and film director, who is currently visiting professor at the University of Richmond where he is teaching a course in “Translation in Context” in the Theatre department, and a course in Comedy in the Italian department.
With The Heir Apparent, Quill Theatre continues its tradition of showcasing “theatre worth talking about.”
The show leaves much to talk about… once you catch your breath.
The Heir Apparent runs through April 29th. Tickets can be purchased online here, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Visitor Services desk, or by calling VMFA Visitor Services at 804-340-1400.
Julie Harthill Clayton is an out and proud bisexual with a passion for reading, writing . . . and NOT arithmetic. Her work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Internet Review of Books, Curve Magazine, Lambda Literary and more. She is working on her first novel - Two Tickets to Freedom - a semi-autobiographical queer coming-of-age tale. A paralegal by day, Julie spends her free time knitting, writing, and reading anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Richmond with her partner, local artist David Turner, and their mischievous and loving hunting dog, Max.
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