‘Metromaniacs’ like Dr. Seuss for grownups; comedy opens Oct. 19

Imagine a time and place where nearly everyone is maniacally obsessed with writing poetry, and if that sounds to you like Middlebury and Brooklyn combined, good guess. But this is Paris in 1738, where David Ives’ hilarious comedy “The Metromaniacs” is set. The Middlebury Actors Workshop production of the play opens at Town Hall Theater in Middlebury next Thursday, Oct. 19. You’ve never seen anything quite like it, and you don’t need to be a poetry geek to enjoy it.
Translated and transformed by Ives from 18th century French into a wacky modern comedy, the play’s multiple subplots all depend on mistaken identity, both accidental and deliberate. To welcome home from college his daughter Lucille (played by Jennifer Catalano) the wealthy Francalou (Larry Connolly) throws a party, inviting 100 eligible bachelors in hopes that one of them can lure Lucille out of her bookish introversion. The evening’s entertainment will be a play written by Francalou, to be staged in a forest built in his ballroom (designed by Joseph Haggerty). Francalou casts the conniving maid Lisette (Chris Caswell) in the role of his daughter, and once dressed as Lucille and working , Lisette workers her own agenda for the sake of love.
Along come some uninvited guests, including One of Francalou’s guests is the romantic poet Damis (Andy Butterfield) who is searching for the love of his life, a poetess he has never met but has fallen in love with through her published work and who turns out to be a pseudonym of Francalou’s. Damis’ valet Mondor (Will Larsen) and With Damis is his roguish valet Mondor (Will Larsen), who pursues love wherever he can find it. Slipping in uninvited is the earnest but non-poetical Dorante (Jory Raphael), in love with Lucille, and also show up, along with a grumpy and litigious uncle of Damis, and the game is on. The play-within-a-play is never actually performed, but the action escalates and ends in the usual comedy finale where all the right lovers finally get sorted out and plan their weddings.
Middlebury Actors Workshop is a local treasure, giving us more sophisticated live theater than most small towns, even most small college towns, can ever expect. Don’t miss it. The updating of the play is masterful, with skillful guidance by MAW Artistic Director Melissa Lourie, with never a dull moment, lots of laughs, and one sly Britney Spears joke. I’d like to see half of Shakespeare made so current and accessible. Although every speech is a rhyming couplet, fear not, the overall effect is like Dr. Seuss for grownups and pure joy for the audience.

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