The Delightful Chaos of Windfall Theatre’s ‘Metromaniacs’
As President Trump chides news reporters for making his administration seem like it’s in “total chaos,” he should hop on Air Force One and head straight to Milwaukee’s Windfall Theatre. There, he will discover what true chaos is about (and how hilarious it can be) in The Metromaniacs.
This frothy farce is a delight to watch from start to finish, as seven well-versed actors tackle a modern adaptation of a 1700s French play. It must be noted that the translation (and updating) is by dramatist David Ives (who penned Venus in Fur, produced in 2013 by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater).
The entire play is done in rhyming couplets which give the audience a chance to be dazzled by the intricate wordplay. Loosely translated, “metromaniacs” refers to those obsessed by poetry. Of course, this means the upper classes—the only ones with time for the kind of nonsense that ensues in this play.
Under the capable direction of longtime artistic producing director Carol Zippel, the cast dives into a world of folly interwoven with mistaken identities and subterfuge, all in the name of love. The plot is far too contrived to be outlined here, except to say that a penniless, aristocratic young poet (Joe Picchetti) is determined to meet a mysterious poetess. He winds up at the mansion of a generous arts patron (Ben George) who is eager to snap his daughter Lucille (Hannah Klapperich Mueller) out of her poetry-induced daze. He hopes that producing one of his plays—which focuses on the plight of a similar heroine—might do the trick.
As in William Shakespeare’s plays, the maids and valets are much smarter than their masters, and it is they who pull the strings to their advantage. One of the best examples of this is Susie Duecker’s Lisette, a sassy maid. She always seems to be in the middle of things. When the mistaken identities start to unravel, she cleverly provides either the required explanation or distraction. Her male suitor, a visiting valet named Mondor (Mohammad ElBsat), proves to be no less clever than Lisette.
The play’s rhymes swing from the truly poetic (snipped from sonnets and roundelays), to phrases from contemporary speech. “Write Lucy a poem or you’ll be toast,” warns Lisette to a barely literate suitor (Chris Goode). Those who follow the dialogue closely may hear a few of these phrases delivered from left field (such as impersonations of James Cagney, or by “two wild and crazy guys” from TV’s “Saturday Night Live”).
As fabulous as the costumes are, they pale in comparison to the play’s elaborate plot (which has a surprise ending) and its clever wordplay. Coupled with one of the least expensive ticket prices in town, The Metromaniacs is this month’s not-to-be-missed production.
Through March 4 at Village Church Arts, 130 E. Juneau Avenue. For tickets, call 414-332-3963.