The MSU Department of Theatre is proud to present Molière’s The Misanthrope in a lively verse adaptation by Constance Congdon, based on a translation by Virginia Scott. Directed by Dan Smith, this biting comedy of manners brings rococo elegance and philosophical flair to the Arena Theatre November 10-19.
“The Misanthrope is a play about friendship and love in a world of absolute power enforced through surveillance,” Smith said. “The play sets itself up as a romantic comedy. It feels like it should end with multiple weddings, but it doesn’t. Alceste has unrealistic expectations of the world in general, and of his beloved Célimène in particular. Célimène’s expectations are also imbalanced and unrealistic.”
The design of the play evokes the sumptuous rococo era, specifically the 1750s. The production is inspired in part by Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s claim (in 1759) that Alceste’s radical honesty makes him a sympathetic figure, rather than a ridiculous one. Heather Brown’s scenic design creates Célimène’s home, recently redecorated after the death of her fabulously wealthy husband. Costumes by Violet Jones evoke the luxury of the eighteenth century and the colorful characters of Molière’s comedy.
The role of Alceste is played by Matt Greenbaum, a third-year MFA candidate in Acting. He is joined by fellow graduate student Greg Hunter in the role of Philinte, Alceste’s best friend. BFA senior Janette Angelini plays Célimène.
Angelini described her character, Célimène, as an “energetic, confident flirt and recent widow who has a deep struggle with commitment. Her life is centered on the balancing act she performs to keep Alceste and her other suitors in her back pocket. But how long can this act last? You’ll have to see the show to find out!”
Supporting roles offer scope for broad comedy: rakes, fops, pompous aristocrats, and false prudes abound. BFA senior Evan Phillips plays the role of Clitandre.
“I’ve played a lot of comedic characters during my time at MSU,” Phillips said. “Compared to my past roles, however, Clitandre is the most flamboyant of them all and I’ve had a lot of fun playing a character who radiates such a high level of confidence and vibrancy.”
Constance Congdon’s rhyming verse adaptation, based on a translation by Virginia Scott, offers an exciting challenge to the actors. Smith was Virginia Scott’s Assistant Director on the original production of this version in 2000, when Congdon was workshopping the adaptation.
“My main job was to sit in rehearsal with the French text and make suggestions to help the actors interpret the script. Because it rhymes, a lot of the text has stayed in my brain for 17 years,” Smith said.
Directors often choose the late Richard Wilbur’s translations of Molière, but Smith prefers Congdon’s version. “Richard Wilbur was a poet, and Connie Congdon is a playwright. She understands actors better.”
Running time is approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
Show times are as follows:
- Friday, November 10, at 8 p.m.
- Saturday, November 11, at 2 p.m.
- Saturday, November 11, at 8 p.m.
- Sunday, November 12, at 2 p.m. (Director pre-show discussion at 1:15 p.m.)
- Tuesday, November 14, at 7:30 p.m. (Post-show discussion following the performance)
- Wednesday, November 15, at 7:30 p.m.
- Thursday, November 16, at 7:30 p.m.
- Friday, November 17, at 8 p.m.
- Saturday, November 18, TBD (Pending Football Game)
- Sunday, November 19, at 2 p.m.
Tickets are available from the Wharton Center Box Office, 1.800.WHARTON, whartoncenter.com. General admission is $15, seniors and faculty are $13, students $10.
The ticket office at the Arena Theatre opens one hour prior to the show with doors opening 10 minutes prior. Doors close 5 minutes after the posted start time as late seating beyond that point will disrupt the performers and fellow audience members.