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DAVID IVES'S
THE METROMANIACS

Monday, March 20, 7:30 pm

Lucille Lortel Theatre

121 Christopher St.

Adapted from Alexis Piron’s La Métromanie

Directed by Craig Baldwin

Original direction by Michael Kahn

Featuring Christian Conn, Cary Donaldson, Carson Elrod, Peter Kybart, Adam LeFevre, Amelia Pedlow, and Dina Thomas

Adapted from Alexis Piron’s La Métromanie, the fight for true love involves mistaken identity, misplaced ardor, and manic would-be poets in David Ives’s warm and witty ‘transladaptation’ of this rediscovered French farce.

 

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CAST

ABOUT the PLAY

 

Frankly, I fell in love with the title.

           

Having enjoyed myself enormously adapting three French comedies of the 17th and 18th centuries, I was casting around for a third. In the course of reading in and about that period, I stumbled again and again upon mention of an obscure play from 1738 with a superb title:  La Métromanie. It means, more or less, The Poetry Craze. When I found out that the play’s author, Alexis Piron, failed to make the Académie Française because he’d written a lengthy Ode To The Penis, I was really interested.

So what kind of play did the Bard Of The Hard-On write?

 

A very chaste and wonderfully delightful one.  Upon inspection La Métromanie turned out to be a farce based on a brilliant idea, if given sometimes to long-winded declamations on Art. Though Piron was a wit and a poet, I must admit he was not great on dramaturgy - this by way of saying I’ve fiddled a good deal with Piron’s little gem in bringing it into English. (The first English version ever, to my knowledge, but I’m open to correction).

There’s not much like realism in The Metromaniacs. We’re in a levitated reality that’s the exact counterpart of the vernacular, set-in-an-inn comedies the English were writing at the same time. This is champagne, not ale. Its world is airy, unmoored, Watteau-ish. Since it’s about people who are mad for poetry, champagne is apropos, as is the fact that it’s in verse. To dump this delicate play into prose would be to clip the wings of Pegasus and harness him to a plow.

The play was a lip-smacking scandal in its time. It seems that all Paris had fallen in love with the poems of a mysterious poetess from distant Brittany (read:  Appalachia). The celebrated satirist Voltaire publicly declared his love for the lady and her great works, only to have it revealed that the “Breton poetess” was actually a guy living in Paris who was taking his revenge on the poetry establishment for not appreciating his genius. Needless to say, Voltaire wasn’t pleased when Piron’s satire showed up. Worse than that, the show was a hit.

When my friends ask me what it’s about, I always say The Metromaniacs is a comedy with five plots, none of them important. But that’s part of its beauty. We go to certain plays to inhabit a world elsewhere, and La Métromanie is that kind of play. Piron doesn’t want plot. He wants gossamer and gorgeousness, rarified air and helpless high-comic passion. A purer world. Characters drunk on language, fools in love with love. In other words, the way the world was meant to be.

Given what’s in our newspapers, a few yards of gossamer may be just what the doctor ordered. So gossam on, mes amis, gossam on…

David Ives

 

ABOUT the PLAYWRIGHT

DAVID IVES was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play for Venus In Fur, which has been produced all over the country and the world, and was turned into a film by Roman Polanski. He is also well known for his evenings of one-act comedies All In The Timing and Time Flies. Other plays include New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza; The Liar (adapted from Corneille); The School For Lies (adapted from Molière); Is He Dead? (adapted from Mark Twain); Ancient History; and Polish Joke. A Chicago native and a former Guggenheim Fellow in playwriting, he lives in New York City.