Last night we went to see The Heir Apparent at Chicago Shakespeare. I loved the way it rhymed. I wasn't as crazy about other aspects.
It's an adaptation, by contemporary playwright David Ives, of an old French comedy by a 17th century playwright, Jean-François Regnard.
The original was rhymed, and Ives did a great job of rhyming his version:
"He hired a lawyer no taller than a creeper,
As if because he's short, he might come cheaper."
And yes, this is a build up to a sight-gag of a very short lawyer.
It's very much an adaptation, not a translation. You can tell, even without knowing the original, because this version is full of anachronisms - not mere turns of phrase but references to things that have happened long after the 17th century. The action of the play is still set hundreds of years ago, and so the anachronisms were jarring at times to me, particularly when one rich character started talking favorably about "socialism" in the final moments of the play.
I also had a particular sense that maybe the director was trying too hard for laughs, because the actors seem to vary between sensitive performances and sudden bursts of over-the-top that felt out of character. Some of it had a kind of "post modern" feel that usually turns me off.
The underlying play seemed to be short on distinctive characters, but big on spectacular comic events. So it had that going for it!
Chicago Shakespeare performances are usually packed, but the theater seemed about half empty. I know the Chicago Tribune gave this play a lukewarm review, so maybe that put people off.
In this town, if you want to get your tickets sold,
A glowing review from the Trib is like gold.