Frank, a penniless Frenchman who has been living in England, prides himself on telling everyone the truth as he sees it. On a visit to Paris’s most glittering salon, Frank tries to demonstrate to his new friend Philinte the evils of telling lies by starting a rumor that Philinte dresses in women’s clothing. It’s not exactly love at first sight when Frank then meets Celimene, a lovely though gossip-loving widow whose favorite pastime is entertaining her adoring suitors by scandalously sending up members of the Paris “scene.” As revenge for the rumor about women’s clothing, Philinte tells Celimene that Frank is actually King Louis’s bastard brother and a man of immense influence. Celimene suddenly wants to get to know Frank better, hoping someone as highly placed as he (so she thinks) might help her in court with a slander case that stands to ruin her.
Philinte meanwhile tells Frank that Celimene is in love with him, and Frank decides that the only noble thing to do is to love her back. An unusual courtship ensues, entailing some stolen love letters, a false proposal invented to spark jealousy, and several cases of misunderstandings and mistaken identity, all contributing to a comic tug-of-war that leads the two “lovers” to their fated end.
Celebrated for his immensely playful comedies, New York playwright David Ives situates his aesthetic on the knife’s edge between absurd slapstick and astute substance. His work has received multiple honors, including the MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play, the Hull-Warriner Award, a Prince Prize for Commissioning New Work, and the 2012 Tony nomination for Best Play for Venus in Fur, which, after its acclaimed Broadway run, is soon to be filmed by Roman Polanski.
The playwright was first recognized for his one-acts. All in the Timing comprises six short plays on sundry subjects: three chimpanzees attempting to write Hamlet, the death of Leon Trotsky as he attempts to make sense of the mountain climber’s axe in his head, and the mundane act of composer Philip Glass purchasing a loaf of bread. All in the Timing won the Outer Critics Circle Playwriting Award, ran for two years off Broadway, and in the 1995-96 American theater season was (apart from Shakespeare) the most performed play in the country.
Ives often translates and/or adapts older works, describing his process as “translaptation”—an attempt to “look for the play underneath the words” and to draw parallels between a play’s historical context and today. Commissioned by CST and produced here in 2006, Ives’s first “translaptation” was A Flea in Her Ear by Georges Feydeau, the nineteenth-century father of French farce. For Ives, the process of translaptation requires more creation than renovation. “It's my job to bring to an adaptation the energy of a playwright working on a new play. As far as I’m concerned, I've simply done the comic work on The Misanthrope that Molière himself might have done had he lived another 350 years. I also fixed his plot—at long last! Molière himself seems quite pleased. But you know how he is.”