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By Bruce Chadwick



originally published: 22/08/2022

crazy

If someone asked me to use a single word to describe The Metromaniacs, the play that just opened at Drew University’s Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey in Madison, that’s what I’d say.

crazy

If they asked me for a two-word description I would be very mad.

The Metromaniacs is set at the beginning of the 18th century in beautiful Paris, when the aristocrats of the French capital were wild about poetry and the men and women who wrote it. It was the hard rock music of its time. The play is about a man who is writing a poem/play and tries to cast everyone he knows as a character. According to the author, there are five plots at play, but it would take a detective to find any of them (TV’s Columbo couldn’t fine one either).

Crazy days in 18th century Paris with people from Brittany to Britney Spears, too

Advertise with New Jersey Stage for $50-$100 per month, click here for info

The Metromaniacs It has no plot, no real main character, and not much of a set. I was adapted by David Ives from the production of 1738. The French author was Alexis Piron.

It’s fun though, a really nice night in Paris and Madison too. I couldn’t stop laughing, especially when author David Ives throws in current people and references that don’t appear in the story (like American singer Britney Spears when she talks about the French geographic region of Brittany). There are men dueling with blank pistols. A man says that the “subway” in the title refers to the New York City subway system. The men are in love with two different women, but it is not clear who is who or who is not who. One scene is crazier than the next.

The play begins with the courtship of a French girl, Lisette, by two men. Or is the French Lucille (the cover of Botox). Then the play gets crazy. Is it really Lisette or is it really Lucille? Is the man wooing her the real suitor? Is the other a wooer and a wooee or just the wooer before being the wooee?

Crazy days in 18th century Paris with people from Brittany to Britney Spears, too

And what is a wooee anyway?

Who is Mondor, the flamboyant playboy who enters the play and seems disconnected from the world, from the entire plot and from each character, until the final scene. Why does the middle-aged man who is writing a play, Francalou, keep trying to put everyone in the story into his play? Who is it anyway?

Who really is the old man who is given a role in Francalou’s play that forces him to howl, like UDOL? and continues to howl as loud as he can throughout the story.

Who is Damis, another playwright, or is he really a playwright? It’s actually, well, who is it?

Crazy days in 18th century Paris with people from Brittany to Britney Spears, too

The play has no goal. It’s plotless. It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t make sense. However, you can’t take your eyes and ears off it. You’re hooked, right from the start.

You just have to love the madness after this show, majestically, and I mean majestically, directed by Brian B. Crowe (oh, it really is Brian B. Crowe)

When will the play of the play ever be written? And for whom? Is the playwright who writes the play of the play really the playwright? Is this play really a play?

There are a million subplots in the play, all of which go nowhere. Director Crowe gets a wonderful performance from his troupe of actors. On stage, it looks as if there are at least 12,000 actors in the show, but there are only seven.

Crazy days in 18th century Paris with people from Brittany to Britney Spears, too

Advertise with New Jersey Stage for $50-$100 per month, click here for info

The talents of the actors bring all the characters to life in such a way that you see them as people, whoever they are or try to be, or understand that they are, or even not understand.

First, there is Francalou, the host, the man who is writing what seems like an endless play. Twist and turn and create the centerpiece of the story. Brent Harris plays him wonderfully. DeShawn White as Lisette and Billie Wyatt as Lucillle are the two lovely women in the play. The inexplicable Mondor is played by Austin Kirk. Is Christian Frost Damis, or is he really Damis? Ty Lane is Dorante. John Ahlin is howling old Baliveau. Individually, they are abundant and collectively a treasure.

Crazy days in 18th century Paris with people from Brittany to Britney Spears, too

All this play needed was Abbott and Costello and the cast Seinfeld.

I can only see Kramer in 1738, can’t I? talk to jerry

oh wait Just wait. I can hear Baliveau howling in the parking lot in front of my condo building.

HHHHHHOOOOOWLLLLLL!

Crazy days in 18th century Paris with people from Brittany to Britney Spears, too

The Metromaniacs is on stage until September 4. Click here for ticket information.

PHOTOS BY SARAH HALEY


Bruce Chadwick worked for 23 years as an entertainment writer/critic for the New York Daily News. Later, he served as an arts and entertainment critic for the History News Network, a national weekly online magazine. Chadwick holds a PhD in History and Cultural Studies from Rutgers University. He has written 31 books on American history and has lectured on history and culture around the world. He is a professor of history at the University of New Jersey.


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