Somewhere in the second act of “The Heir Apparent” — David Ives’ 2011 hilarious “translaptation” of an early-18th-century French comedy — the scheming servant Crispin smirks, “I don’t care what anyone says/I am a one-man Comédie-Française.”
Played by the endlessly inventive Patrick Kelly Jones in an excellent Aurora Theatre Company production, he is indeed.
The two-act (and, truth be told, slightly overlong) play was originally written by the now-obscure Jean-François Regnard, a contemporary of Molière. It’s thinly plotted, but so funny that you won’t care.
Adapter Ives translated it entirely in witty rhyming couplets (with the occasional contemporary phrase: “Have you lost your mind?” shrieks one character, to which the other retorts, “Have you left your indoor voice behind?”) and added antics and flourishes, plus a more complete ending than the original.
Director Josh Costello and his pitch-perfect seven-actor ensemble make the most of every scatological, raunchy, slapsticky moment.
Eraste (a wonderfully excitable Kenny Toll) is in love with Isabelle (Khalia Davis) but has no money. He’s hoping for an inheritance from his miserly and doddering uncle, Geronte (the excellent Julian López-Morillas, in a gloriously silly blond wig, coughing and expectorating to a cringe-worthy degree), who (everyone hopes) is at death’s door.
Eraste conspires with wily servants Crispin (Jones) and Lisette (the comically gifted Katie Rubin) to get the geezer to write his will as quickly as possible before he croaks, and to give the bulk of his million francs to Eraste, with generous side offers to the servants as well.
But upon meeting Isabelle, Geronte suddenly decides that he himself will wed her, his decrepitude notwithstanding. The girl’s avaricious mother, Argante (an imperious and cold-eyed Elizabeth Carter), is all for the potentially lucrative marriage.
Mayhem ensues as Crispin assumes various disguises to influence Geronte: a sort of Davy Crockett character in a coonskin cap (Crispin’s misguided idea of a New Yorker), a pig farmer’s wife in Little-Bo-Peep golden curls and pink ruffles (great over-the-top costumes by Callie Floor); and more.
A two-and-a-half-foot lawyer, Scruple, called in for the signing of the will (Lawrence Redecker, solemnly waddling about in a long black cape and taking offense at every reference to his height), is rightfully suspicious of the goings-on.
A decrepit grandfather clock, its wheels and gears visible (Eric Sinkkonen, set design), sits upstage center, ominously farting, smoking and clanking.
In this production, every detail strikes comic gold.
The Heir Apparent
Where: Aurora Theatre Co., 2081 Addison St., Berkeley
When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays; 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays; closes May 15
Tickets: $32 to $50
Contact: (510) 843-4822, www.auroratheatre.org