Adapted by playwright David Ives, from a little known French play called Le Legataire Universel by JeanFrancois Regnard, The Heir Apparent is a delightfully bawdy romp packed with clever rhyme – the whole play is in rhyme – visual gags, and double entendres.
Young Eraste (played by Nate Burger) is desperate to marry his beloved Isabelle (Emily Peterson), but Isabelle’s mother Madame Argante (Linda Kimbrough) will only agree to the marriage if Eraste is the sole heir to his miserly uncle Gerona’s (Paxton Whitehead) fortune. Eraste’s valet Crispin (Cliff Saunders) is eager for the marriage to take place, because he is in love with Gerona’s maid Lisette (Jessie Fisher), but their plans unravel when Geronte decides that he is going to leave his fortune to two little known relatives – and worse, he has decided that he would like to marry Isabelle himself! With a pint-sized lawyer named Scruple (Patrick Kerr) on route to Geronte’s house to make Geronte’s Will, the four young lovers need to take matters into their own hands…
This was my first visit to the Shakespeare Theater of Chicago, and this play was a wonderful slice of entertainment with which to enjoy the surroundings. The theatre itself reminded me a lot of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, with it’s thrust stage. We had excellent seats, right in the middle of the front row of the lower gallery.
The play itself was wonderful. From the first moment, when Lisette is seen emptying a chamber pot over the balcony, and covering some poor unseen person with the contents, you know instantly that you are in for an evening of bawdy humour, and lots of laughs.
With such a small cast – seven in total – any weak link would have been instantly noticeable; however, everyone put in a note perfect performance, and I struggled to decide who was the best overall. That said, I did think that the roles of Geronte, Crispin and Lisette probably had the best opportunities for physical humour – Paxton Whitehead was wonderfully and hilariously curmudgeonly as the uncle whose money everyone wants to get their hands on. As Crispin, Cliff Saunders interacted with the audience more than most of the other characters, even stopping at one point to make sure that everyone was caught up with the plot.
Patrick Kerr didn’t come on stage until the second half, but he certainly made the most of his role, and it can’t have been entirely comfortable as he spent the entire time on his knees!
The rhyming script was very inventively written, and I also loved the stage set and the costumes – all of the action takes place in Geronte’s living room, and effectively happens in real time. Nate Burger and Emily Peterson both looked gorgeous as Eraste and Isabelle, and played off each other very well indeed.
Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable evening in a lovely theatre. The play runs until January 17th 2016, and if you have chance to see it, then I would highly recommend that you go.
(For more information about this production or the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, please click here.)