The Short Version: Dorante, newly arrived in Paris, is a consumate liar. He manages to spin a web of fantastic stories and get himself caught up in a classic French romantic farce, complete with mistaken identities and identical twins. Fun is had by all and everyone gets married in the end!
The Review: In an attempt to get myself back into a Think Tank creative mindset, I’m attempting to dive back into reading plays. Having procured a few from The Public during our recent clean-out, I figured something witty and silly was a good place to start. Enter David Ives, who I’ve enjoyed since high school. He writes this in clean, efficient, hilarious verse – and doesn’t worry about offending classical purists who might be tweaked that he’s not only updating the language but at times radically altering the structure of the Corneille play. (Poor Corneille, by the way – Kushner did a ‘version’ of one of his plays, too. Are none of them good enough to just be straight-translated?)
It’s a French farce in a Shakespearean style, which is fun. There are sisters with similar names, a doddering old man, twin servants, and fun with language in a way that… well, few authors have had as much fun with language since Shakespeare. There’s a hilarious duel, lots of terrific posturing, and the play zips along on the page. I’m usually loathe to enjoy rhymed verse – I find it distracting, especially when actors hit the rhyme instead of the rhythm of the lines – but this just carried me along. Perhaps because the rhyme was almost always entertaining. The opening monologue, which breaks the fourth wall and snarks at the audience, sets you up for this: it’s going to be a fun night, don’t worry that it’s rhymed, just enjoy the ludicrous plot and pace.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5. A great play – would love to see it done onstage. I think there are moments – as there so often are in any production of any play where the original text is from before about 1800 – where I’d groan instead of laugh… but that’s modern society. Plus, the laughs far outweigh any potential ‘ugh’ moments here, so it’s well worth a read and (someday) a viewing. Ives is an absolute master of comedic writing and it’s always a pleasure to read something he’s done.