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'Heir Apparent' Is A Breezy Farce With A Lot Of Fart Jokes

By Melody Udell in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 11, 2015 9:17PM

'The Heir Apparent' at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

David Ives has made a name for himself in Chicago by revitalizing classic French plays. In 2013 alone, Chicago Shakespeare Theater staged The School for Lives, Ives’ raucous and clever adaptation of The Misanthrope, and Writers’ Theatre put on his charismatic riff of Pierre Corneille’s The Liar. Ives’ latest attempt—The Heir Apparent, based on the Jean-Francois Regnard play of the same name—trades wit and charisma for fart noises and potty humor. In other words, it's a farce, told in rhyming couplets peppered with puns and zingers that range from truly funny to groan-worthy.

The show's comedic heart is Crispin (Cliff Saunders), the valet to the crotchety, well-off Geronte (Paxton Whitehead), whose ailing health has led his inner circle to squabble for Geronte’s will. Geronte’s nephew Eraste (Nate Burger) is the likeliest candidate to inherit his uncle’s supposed $1 million, which will make him eligible to wed his fiancĂ©, Isabelle (Emily Peterson), in the eyes of Isabelle’s money-grubbing mother, Madame Argante (Linda Kimbrough). As to be expected in a farce, the pace is quick, and the actors keep the laughs rolling (or eyes rolling, depending on how you feel about farces). Scheming, mistaken identities, slapstick antics and endless farts ensue as the group tries to secure their spots in Geronte’s will before he kicks the bucket.

While the plot might skew more slapstick than substantive, CST didn’t skimp on the lush costumes and set design by David Woolard and Kevin Depinet, respectively. And the deadpan one-liners and spot-on comedic timing of Jessie Fisher, playing Geronte’s crass maid Lisette, helps even out some of the more nonsensical elements of the show.

It’s fitting that CST is staging The Heir Apparent around the holidays. The play is light-hearted and airy, without any ghosts of Christmas past in sight. Personally, though, I can do without the fart jokes.

The show runs through Sunday, Jan. 17 at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand Ave., 312-667-4952 or online.