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Why Adam Green is so gung ho about his latest David Ives' show
Even though he's playing a servant in The Metromaniacs, Adam Green is a master at speaking in rhyme, and he has Tony-nominated dramatist David Ives to thank for that. Produced by Red Bull Theater and currently running at the Duke on 42nd Street, The Metromaniacs is Ives' fourth so-called "translaptation" of an obscure French farce. These zany drolleries are full of mistaken identities, laughable lewdness and dizzying wordplay written in rhyming couplets. After appearing in the world premiere of Ives' The Liar at Washington, D.C.'s Shakespeare Theatre Company in 2010, Green is glad to be back speaking in the playwright's effervescent verse.
Inspired by Alexis Piron's little-known 1738 comedy La Métromanie, The Metromaniacs features Green as Mondor, valet to Damis, poet-in-residence for Francalou, who's writing his own verse under a female pseudonym, which creates all kinds of wacky complications. Got all that? If not, don't worry. The plot's not the thing with this play -- the delightfully unexpected rhymes are.
While Mondor is blessed with some of Ives' most inventive punch rhymes ("Before we wave and say cioa bella, consider this, am I a lucky fella?"), it's Green's fluent yet goofball delivery that makes them land. Since Mondor is a servant, he's gleefully fun to play because he doesn't need to adhere to bourgeois rules. So he flirts with abandon, seducing women both low (a maid named Lisette) and high (Francalou's daughter Lucille), and knows everyone's secrets, which he's constantly threatening to expose. He also acts as the audience's confidant and guide, even telling spectators when to applaud. "Mondor has a special relationship with theatregoers," says Green, who played a similar character in The Liar. "He is able to shepherd them through his understanding of the play."
Of course as clever as the rhymes are, they present a unique performance challenge. "You want to honor the rhythm and the meter, but you don't want to let the audience get ahead of you," Green explains, noting that when theatregoers predict a rhyme, the joke is ruined. To avoid that, in rehearsals the actors tinkered with how fast or slow lines should be to hit that "sweet spot of it being fresh but also surprising, and not going so quickly that the audience can't understand what's happening."
Although frankly, even if theatregoers do lose the narrative thread, that shouldn't take away from their enjoyment. This isn't a Shakespeare history play. It's screwball froth that, according to Green, offers a welcome respite from the current glut of serious shows. "There are a lot of political plays right now because that's what we're all thinking about," he admits. "But there is space for plays that let you escape from all that to revel in frivolity. In The Metromaniacs there are misunderstandings, but everybody ends up with something that they want. And for the most part it's love."
Top image: Adam Green and Dina Thomas in The Metromaniacs. Photos by Carol Rosegg.