PICK! ASR Theater ~~ “The Metromaniacs” a Linguistic Howl at Spreckels

By Sue Morgan

Do mellifluous words set you atwitter? Do powdered wigs and Converse sneakers make you jitter? Would missing a night of hilarious hijinks, deftly performed by Sonoma County’s own Spreckels Theatre Company make you bitter?

Then, by all means, do yourself a favor and drive the short distance to Rohnert Park to see The Metromaniacs, playing now through Sunday, December 17th in the Spreckels Performing Arts Center studio theatre.

 … plenty of laugh-out-loud moments throughout the performance …

The Metromaniacs is a translation and adaptation by David Ives of a little-known French play written in 1738, entitled La Métromanie (also called The Poetry Craze). Ives became intrigued with the play due to its comedic underpinnings based on a real-life scandal in which none other than the great Voltaire professed his love for and desire to marry a highly esteemed yet unknown poetess, only to find out that the “Mademoiselle” was in fact a Monsieur, writing under a pseudonym to exact revenge on poetry-mad society that had ignored works published under his own name.

The play was written in verse, was hilarious, and its author had also written a “lengthy poetic Ode to the Penis.” Those facts clinched the deal for Ives, who had adapted two French comedies for the Shakespeare Theatre Company and had enjoyed the process so much, he sought out a third. [Editor’s note: David Ives is not only a brilliant translator, especially of Moliere, but is a wonderful comedic playwright himself. “All in the Timing”, his collection of one-acts, includes a hilarious piece called “The Universal Language.”]

Spreckels director Kevin Bordi’s spare suggestion of a set-within-a-set exists sans the 4th wall, which allows the audience to engage (albeit silently) with cast members as we serve as guests invited to the grand estate of Francalou (Edward McCloud), who’s hosting a play intended to draw suitors for his unmarried, poetry-loving daughter Lucille (Mercedes Murphy).

Brady Voss plays the delightfully obsessive poet and would-be playwright Damis in Spreckels Theatre Company’s “Metromaniacs,” a farce about poetry fans by David Ives. Photo by Jeff Thomas.

Talented yet penniless poet Damis (the fabulously over-the-top Brady Voss) believes that the mysterious Mlle. Meridec de Peaudoncqville is also in attendance, and Francalou—the actual composer of the poems ascribed to the non-existent Mlle. Meridec—leads Damis to believe that Lucille is the real Mlle. Meridec.

Tajai Britten plays the opportunistic Mondor in “The Metromaniacs,” now at Spreckels. Photo by Jeff Thomas.

With hidden and mistaken identities, pseudonyms, outrageous plot lines (Ives described The Metromaniacs as “a comedy with five plots, none of them important”) and outlandish dialogue delivered in rhyming couplets, there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments throughout the performance.

Edward McCloud (right) as the wealthy poet Francalou, with Sarah Dunnavant as the scheming servant Lisette, in “The Metromaniacs.” Photo by Jeff Thomas.

Voss, Murphy and Sarah Dunnavant (as Lisette, a servant disguised as mistress Lucille) all deliver their lines with aplomb, but this reviewer thought that some other players seem more focused on correctly reciting the trippingly tricky rhymes, rather than allowing their characters to carry on actual conversations with one another.

The dialogue in The Metromaniacs is some of the most challenging I’ve encountered outside of Shakespeare. Despite that bit of difficulty, the audience—myself included—laughed heartily and often and thoroughly enjoyed this engaging and entertaining performance.


ASR Contributing Writer Sue Morgan is a literature-and-theater enthusiast in Sonoma County’s Russian River region. She is a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. Contact: sstrongmorgan@gmail.com


ProductionThe Metromaniacs
Translated & Adapted byDavid Ives
Directed byKevin Bordi
Producing CompanySpreckels Performing Arts
Production DatesThrough Dec 17th
Production AddressSpreckels Performing Arts Center
5409 Snyder Lane
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
Telephone(707) 588-3429
Tickets$14 - $346
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?YES!