Vincent is running away from love. Or running to love; he's not exactly sure which. Instead of meeting his girlfriend for some quick Mexican in Chicago, he's hopping the last flight to Paris and hoping to learn the ways of romance from the grandfather he never met. This is the opening of Mat Smart's The 13th of Paris. This is also the best (best!) feel-good play of the season. It's a richly textured comedy treating all the strands of love: French realistic, French magical, American, American-blase, American-alien, and of course, the unabashedly Skanky.
Warehouse Theatre and director Adam Knight have assembled a delightful cast for this regional premiere--the return of Thomas Hudgins (Vincent) and Elizabeth Finley (Annie) is cause for rejoicing. Their chemistry crackles across trans-Atlantic phone connections and in unexpected spring showers. Debra Capps (Jessica) and Daryl Phillipy (William) have the audience howling as the over-sexed newlyweds who accost (literally, hormonally, hilariously) the beleaguered Vincent.
But camp and fury aside, the creme de la creme of this show has to be the grandparents: Jacques (Jim France) and Chloe (Kerrie Seymour), who meet in the storied Parisian cafe and have a romance worth dying for. France and Seymour assume their roles with such grace and openness that they leave the rest of the talented cast far behind. By the sheer force of lovely acting, the grandparents' fairy-tale romance becomes tangible reality, and the turbulent present is exposed, for a season, as a farcical cartoon caricature.
But only for a season. This play speaks as much for realists as for sentimentalists. Every romance, no matter how boring or bawdy, has its own flavor--something worth savoring and celebrating. And pursuing. It's a lesson Vincent learns only reluctantly, as he lets go of the shimmery past to pursue a quirky, fulfilling present with the girl who just happens to be fluent in alien.
The grandparents, it seems, do know best. They lured Vincent to Paris. They'd lure me back to the Warehouse for a repeat performance. Not bad for a couple that's been dead forty years. Let them lure you...and whatever sort of romantic interest you're pursuing these days.
Mat Smart's "The 13th of Paris," Directed by Adam Knight
Presented by The Warehouse Theatre, 37 Augusta St., Greenville (864) 235-6948. Through May 22. Tickets $25. Students $15.