"Brevity is the soul of wit," Hamlet tells us. (It is also the soul of lingerie, as Dorothy Parker told us, but that is neither here nor there). David Ives' The Heir Apparent at the Lantern Theater Company could do with some brevity, especially in Act 2, although this adaptation/translation of an 18th-century French farce is, if not exactly witty, pretty funny.
The plot is the usual Comédie-Française formula: An old miser named Geronte (the outstanding Leonard Haas) has a nephew, Eraste (Chris Anthony), who wants him to write a will making him the sole heir to his fortune, thus letting him marry Isabelle (Ruby Wolf), daughter of the formidable dowager Madame Argante (Mary Martello). Organizing the elaborate dupings are the clever servant Crispin (Dave Johnson) and the maid Lisette (Lee Minora). In the course of various and devious shenanigans, a hilariously tiny lawyer named Scruple (Adam Hammet) appears.
There are bosoms. There are fart jokes, diarrhea jokes, and high colonic jokes. There is greed. There are disguises — some, like the backwoodsman, are a hoot, others not so hootish. There are French characters pretending to be French ("As the French … but wait. I am French"). There is a happy ending.
Mainly though, there is language. Ives is the master of rhyme, and much of the amusement is in listening to lines like these:
This is the basilisk, Madame Argante!
She whom the Prince of Darkness couldn't daunt.
She next to whom a rock looks nonchalant.
Who makes Godzilla seem a mad bacchante.
To whom Attila is a dilettante.
M. Craig Getting's direction sometimes lags when it should sparkle, and too often I found myself looking at an actor's back, given the awkward configuration of the thrust stage in the middle of the three-sided audience. Old-fashioned plays — even those that are only pretending to be old-fashioned — need a proscenium, although Lance Kniskern's set design is handsome, as are Marla Jurglanis's costumes.
There is no way Ives' earlier plays — the brilliant and sexy Venus in Fur and the philosophical New Jerusalem, The Interrogation of Baruch Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656 — would lead you to expect The Heir Apparent. But there it apparently is.