Theater Review: “The Heir Apparent” at Shakespeare Theatre Company

A delightful romp of a French farce with quick-witted word play, pitch-perfect acting, and sight gags galore

By: Leslie Milk

Floyd King as Geronte and Carson Elrod as Crispin in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of The Heir Apparent. Photograph by Scott Suchman

☆☆☆  stars out of four

Miserly, old uncle Geronte (Floyd King) is full of, well, “bile” in Shakespeare Theatre Company’s The Heir Apparent. In fact, putrid stuff pours forth from every orifice. The only substance not forthcoming is what his dashing nephew Eraste (Andrew Veenstra) desperately needs—gold.

The play, an original adaptation—in verse, no less—of the 1708 French satire Le Legataire Universel by Jean-François Regnard was written by playwright David Ives, who also adapted last season’s The Liar and wrote Studio Theatre’s edgy Venus in Fur (about to begin a run on Broadway). Michael Kahn directs the work, which is part of STC’s 25th anniversary celebration.

The play keeps you on the edge of your seat with questions as the rhymes unfold: Can Eraste’s clever servant Crispin (Carson Elrod) finagle a way for Eraste to lay claim to Geronte’s gold? Can he thereby win lady love Isabelle (Meg Chambers Steedle), whose mother Madame Argante (Nancy Robinette) is willing to auction her off to whichever gent has the most filthy lucre? Can Crispin’s sweetheart Lisette (Kelly Hutchison), who also happens to be Geronte’s cook, concoct enough lotions and potions to keep the old miser alive long enough to write a will? And while he’s alive, can the company connive to focus Geronte’s generosity in Eraste’s direction?

Naturally—or unnaturally—the characters proceed to exercise their greed in hilarious fashion. The two old pros, King and Robinette, shine throughout. Nobody can flounce like Robinette and nobody can suffer like King, whose every affliction is an occasion for comedic celebration. The rest of the cast rises to the level of this dynamic duo.

But the real star of the show is Ives, who delivers a gem of a play. This over-the-top farce is clever, funny, and fast. Everything about this production is top notch. The Heir Apparent is two hours of sheer joy.

The Heir Apparent is running at the Shakespeare Theatre Company through October 23. Tickets ($39 to $95) can be purchased through the company’s Web site.

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