By Samantha Reed
Picture this: a seventeenth century comedy of manners set in 1920's France. That's what audiences are in for Rider University's Westminster College of the Arts production of the Molière classic, The Misanthrope. Although not a hit first after its publication in 1666, The Misanthrope today is Molière's best known work. The Rider production, under direction of Rider faculty Miriam Mills, is a modernized adaptation written by author Timothy Mooney.
Like all comedy of manners, The Misanthrope pokes fun at human nature. In this story, we see the mocking of French aristocracy. The play's main character Alceste, played by Rider Musical Theatre junior Greg Clark, acts as "the misanthrope"- a hater of humankind. Alceste notices his flaws, but refuses to accept anyone else's. These themes are what make The Misanthrope relatable; everyone knows a good hypocrite, and everyone's had a good cry over needing to balance love and reason. Think of it as sort of the prequel to the love triangle, if you will. Director Miriam Mills, a graduate of the Mason Gross School of the Arts with a Master of Fine Arts in Directing, says she chose the Mooney adaptation in hopes the audience will better understand the language, set in a more modern and relatable time.
Written in verse, The Misanthrope doesn't prove to be an easy script to manage. Before having the cast begin blocking and working on their feet, Mills has two weeks of "table reads" so they could grasp a better understanding on the material and become more comfortable with the language, which is all rhyming couplets. It's this expert writing and language that Molière uses that makes him one of the most well known playwrights of his time. Mills said, "I decided to choose The Misanthrope because I had never done a Molière play and I felt that the challenge of doing this play would be a wonderful experience not just for the actors but for the Rider community. The opportunity for Rider to be exposed to this extraordinary playwright was an exciting prospect for me as well". Luckily for her, Mills knew exactly what she wanted to look for during casting, which gave her an incredibly talented and intelligent cast to work with. She added, "I looked for what I usually look for when I cast this type of play; talent, type, reliability, comic timing and creativity. The cast has been one of the most amazing I have ever worked with. The actors keep trying new ideas out and their level of creativity and commitment is outstanding. This cast, led by Greg Clark, is an extraordinarily gifted group. I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with them. They are a gift".
Filled with conflict, romance, and just a touch of chaos, The Misanthrope is a hilarious timeless classic that has something for everyone.
Performances through the weekend are Friday, March 1st at 7:30pm, Saturday, March 2nd at 2pm and 7:30pm, and Sunday, March 3rd at 2pm, all in Rider University's Yvonne Theatre.
Tickets are $10 for students and seniros and $20 for adults and are sold through the box office at 609-896-7775 or in person, as well as online at http://www.rider.edu/arts
, where further info on the arts at Rider can be found.
Photo credit Rider University
Sammie Matarante and Madeline Calandrillo
Greg Clark and Madeline Calandrillo
Greg Clark, Dan Argese, Ethan Levy