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ABOUT THE PLAY

THE HEIR TRANSPARENT is an original play in verse, loosely based on Jean-François Regnard's 18th century farce Le Legataire Universel. The original author was a writer of comedies who revered Molière, (and whose bust sits alongside his hero in the lobby of the Comédie Française—a good looking guy). He composed the body of his work approximately 25 years after the death of his idol. His plays are dusted off and performed periodically at the Comédie Française, particularly this one.

This adaptation is its first rendering into English for the modern American stage. It has had a number of productions since Ms. Thomas was commissioned by the Alabama Shakespeare Festival to adapt it for the 1986 opening of its new theatre complex; however, subsidiary rights are still available. A production at the Gainesville Junior College followed its world premiere, which won First Alternate in the 1986 American College Theater Festival. The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum produced it in 1988, the University of Pittsburgh in 1991 and Florida Studio Theater in 1993. It has a cast of 8 (5 men, 3 women), preserves the classical unities of time, place and action, the farcical elements are strong and the characters reminiscent of our favorite commedia types. The play runs approximately two hours, not including intermission. There are two scenes in Act I and two scenes in Act II.




THE CAST (In order of appearance)

 

ERASTE Nephew to GERONTE, bumbling, awkward, shy, Loveable, scared of his uncle, madly in love with—
ISABELLE:
The girl next door. Everything you’ve ever wanted in an ingenue and less. Never says more than three Words in a row until the epilogue. Conveys her Character in poses.
CRISPIN*
Servant to ERASTE, jack-of-all-trades, bon-vivant, Master of disguise. Fences, plays a German doctor, A woman and impersonates GERONTE.
LISETTE
Prototype comic maid, servant to GERONTE. Sharp, Sassy, plays a man in one scene.
GERONTE
An old, sick miser. Dies several times.
MME ARGANTE
ISABELLE’S mother. Dame Edith Evans & Edna May Oliver rolled into one.
NOTARY
One of GERONTE’s lawyers. A very short man. (Can be played by a midget or a man on his knees). Also plays the ASSISTANT to the GENDARME.
PIERRE NOTARY
’s brother. Another very short man. Also plays the GENDARME.


* Note pronunciation Kree-SPAN.


 

SCENE SAMPLE

PROLOGUE

(The stage is black except for a special on ISABELLE & ERASTE. He is on one knee. She faces away from him, frozen in a lovely demure tableau. He hesitates, then speaks. She moves only to change poses)

ERASTE

My dearest Isabelle—I—that is—I

ISABELLE

                                                            Yes?

ERASTE

I have a secret longing to confess.

One which I carry with me in my heart.

May I impart its thought to you?

ISABELLE

                                                Impart.

ERASTE

(During his next lines he prompts himself from crib sheets fastened to various parts of his

body—inside his hat, coat, on the sole of his shoe, etc.)

Well, then, dear Isabelle, I mean—uh—

ISABELLE

                                                            Yes?

ERASTE

If but my heart could speak, it would confess

A hundred sweet enchantments which your face

Creates within it. Let me words embrace

Your—

ISABELLE

            Oh!

ERASTE

                        Heart, as yours has embraced my own.

Which beats, here, evermore, for you alone.

The moment we first met—when?

ISABELLE

                                                            Yesterday.

ERASTE

I felt a peace surround my sorry way.

Since first I heard the music in your voice—

ISABELLE

                (Demonstrating)

Ah! Ah!

ERASTE

            That makes the wingéd bird rejoice.

Would I could better fashion into speech

The love I bear you. How must I beseech,

Explain, cajole and flatter such a sense

That you might not show cool indifference

To this sweet longing that my soul endures

In its desire to be as one with yours.

It wanders, silent, lonely, late at night,

In search of an oasis of requite

For its most tender passion—

ISABELLE

                                                Oh!

ERASTE

                                                            Forgive

The candor of my ardor, but to live

In doubt and darkness, aching so to pass

Into the light of your sweet eyes—

ISABELLE

                                                            Alas!

ERASTE

Your loving, giving heart must long to cure

This tender malady, so clear, so pure—

ISABELLE

Yes!

ERASTE

            Then, do you consent to let me dwell

In paradise with dearest Isabelle?

Your honey lips need only to confess

That you might condescend to love me—

ISABELLE

                                                                        Yes!

(Stunned that she has agreed, he collects, himself, kisses her hand and faints dead away. She turns and smiles down at him as the lights go to black).


What the critics are saying
about The Heir Transparent:

The reigning star of this evening is never seen on stage. She is Freyda Thomas, the playwright responsible for this freewheeling translation and adaptation of Jean-François Regnard’s classic French farce. Thomas’ translation is a treasure that maintains the spirit of the original while injecting a reviving dose of contemporaneity. Thomas deserves high praise for her achievement. She has managed a translation as classically structured as it is spontaneous, as pithy as it is irreverent, a piece of fluff with plenty of substance.

F. Kathleen Foley
Los Angeles Dramalogue

Freyda Thomas’ terrific adaptation is in…verse. It brings a fresh, new and witty character to the continuous comings and goings.

Eva Curtis
Florida Sun Herald

Let’s see: how to describe it: Young thwarted lovers, a miserly old man, crafty servants, duplicity, lots of shtick and a happy ending. I realize that pretty much describes every play written in France during the 17th century and that’s the point. Regnard and Thomas have a very limited palette from which to work and yet they’ve taken these stock characters in stock situations and tatted up a very pleasurable evening of theater. Thomas, especially, can be credited with giving the show a modern sensibility that, instead of detracting from the source material makes the play highly accessible.

Ted Hoover
In Pittsburgh

It’s fun time in Topanga Canyon. The Heir Transparent, an obscure 17th century play by Jean- François Regnard, turns out to be a real laugh-getter, thanks to Freyda Thomas’ deliciously hip translation and adaptation…the splendid thing about Thomas’ adaptation is the way it surprises you in its rhythms and rhymes and mixes in tongue-in-cheek references to Shakespeare, Pascal and other pundits. The Heir Transparent is a feast for the ears as well as the eyes.

Willard Manus
Beverly Hills Courier

In her 1986 script, Thomas has freely translated and adapted Jean- François Regnard’s 1708 play. Regnard based most of his comedies on the notion of deception for purposes of obtaining money or contriving a marriage, and his humorous depiction of character types strongly resemble the work of fellow Frenchman Molière. Thomas’ articulate script also evokes the spirit of Molière and it contains nearly as much riotous humor as the best English translation of Molière 's work… Thomas has written her script in verse, like the original play, and her lines are often witty. Late in the story, Geronte validates a will that Crispin earlier has dictated by posing as Geronte. After this surprisingly charitable change of character, Geronte reverts to his old habits and begins bickering with Lisette. "You menial," he growls at her. She is about to angrily you reply when Crispin interjects, "We’re in the will, let's be congenial."

Daryl H. Miller
Daily News