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THEATER REVIEW: "The Heir Apparent"

Let’s see, a rich but miserly old geezer surrounded by poverty-stricken and/or grasping relatives and others who want some of his dough. Hmm. Is there a story, opera, or maybe a play here?

You betcha, kemosabe.

The theatrical master of the comedic genre for a plot like this was Molière. The contemporary master of “translaptations” of Molièreand others of that ilk is playwright David Ives (who has already “redone” Molière’s “Le Misanthrope” as “The School For Lies”).

Ives has adapted a similarly funny comedy (“Le Légataire Universel”) by French dramatist Jean-François Regnard and Scripps Ranch Theatre has tapped Robert May to direct it. “The Heir Apparent” – Ives’ English version of the 1708 play – plays through Dec. 13.

Eric Poppick plays the heck out of the hacking, shuffling, sneezing Geronte, helped along by Lisa Burgess’ wonderfully awful costumes that look like they would smell old if you got close enough. (Of course, that impression is confirmed by fart jokes, lines about bodily functions and comments by other characters.)

Geronte’s nephew Eraste (Ben Williams) is first in line for the dough, and figures he deserves it because he wants to marry pretty young girlfriend Isabelle (Mariel Shaw).

Isabelle’s mother, the dowager Madame Argante, played to the hilt by Devlin in one of the season’s more outrageous costumes (outdone only by the incredible wig and, um, decorations), is determined to make sure her daughter marries rich.

Other contenders include Geronte’s clever manservant Crispin (Joshua Jones), who has a case on down-to-earth maid Lisette (Kristin Woodburn). They could use some of those francs too.

But job number one is getting the old guy to make a will, for which they will need (1) Geronte alive and (2) the “very, very short” lawyer Scruple (Amy Dell).

But Geronte has a disconcerting habit of disappearing, collapsing, or wandering off, later to be found unconscious. So getting that will made becomes a matter of great urgency. Crispin concocts a plan to eschew his scruples and pretend to be his boss. He only needs to convince the diminutive lawyer. Fortunately, Scruple has never met Geronte.

It’s a fairly standard plot for its time, but plot isn’t really the point here. Merriment is, and this cast, the crazy costumes and the lighting and sound provided by Mitchell Simkovsky and Ted Leib contribute to a high giggle level.

If you’re looking for serious theater with Great Themes, this isn’t for you. But if you’re in the mood for some guffaws, consider this show. It’s a gas – er, a hoot.

The details

“The Heir Apparent” plays through December 13, 2015 at Legler Benbough Theatre, 9783 Avenue of Nations, off Pomerado Road in Scripps Ranch (on the campus of Alliant International University)

Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm

Tickets: (858) 578-7728 or www.scrippsranchtheatre.org