‘The Misanthrope’ modernizes Molière’s classic

March 10, 2021 / by / 1 Comment
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“The Misanthrope” highlights the importance of truth and points out human flaws.

Story by Ashlee Larrison
Photos by Rylan Dressendorfer
GCU News Bureau

It has been nearly 355 years since Molière’s “The Misanthrope” made its debut in Théâtre du Palais-Royal in Paris.

Ethington Theatre’s production will bring the 355 year old play into modern times.

This week, a modernized rendition of the beloved comedy will close out another successful season for the College of Fine Arts and Production’s Theatre Department.

Instead of the traditional 1600s garb that one could expect out of Molière’s classic, director and COFAP Dean Claude Pensis wanted to give the play a more modern feel when it came to costumes, stage design and language.

“What we tried to do is to find some sort of parallel in terms of class or type of people that might inhabit the play today,” he said. “We’ve set it pretty much in modern times, and instead of a ‘salon’ location, we decided to set it in a very upscale, very Beverly Hills-ish sort of fitness club.”

The play takes audience members into the tale of Alceste and his dealings with the excess of human faults and the hypocrisy within those flaws. The play differs from Molière’s other works in that the focus is on character development and plot progression.

With Grand Canyon University’s production of the play implementing a fitness theme, Pensis describes each act as having its own exercises that performers will be doing as the plot progresses.

Assistant Director Tyler Sorrels credited the modernized theme for adding to the overall humor within the play.

“Early on, Claude said that if it isn’t over the top then it becomes a tragedy,” Sorrels said. “The only way that comedy really lands is if these characters are outlandish, and that had to be reflected in workouts and the space that we created.”

GCU’s rendition of the play will incorporate a fitness theme.

All performers  don an array of workout/fitness styled wardrobes. Alceste, the Misanthrope, will showcase a multitude of costumes from scene to scene.

“Claude’s concept was that as the show progresses, my character Alceste closes himself off more and more from the world and the people around him,” said senior Brandon Brown. “As the show goes on, you’ll find him in more isolating environments as costumes go.”

In a story that underlines the importance in truth, Pensis expects audiences to let loose with a fair share of laughter as the story unfolds.

“As we’ve seen sometimes, the truth can get you into a lot of trouble,” he said. “It’s very funny situationally. I think it’s rather humorous in terms of all of the activity we’re adding to it. It should be a lot of fun.”

For Chris Bradford, who plays Oronte in the show, the concept of vanity is also highlighted.

“Everyone in the entire show is obsessed with image,” he said. “There are people throughout taking selfies, and you’ll see all of us, we have our crazy hair. Everyone is just obsessed with their image and how they look, and so the entire play is about perception.

“It’s funny because it’s about accepting flaws and accepting the nature of people’s humanity, and you get to see that through all of these people as they pretend to be perfect and pretend to be flawless and you get to see how faulty a lot of them are.”

The performance is a lighthearted conclusion to this year’s theatre season.

Because most students will head home at the end of March this year, the turnaround between February’s performance of “Henry V” and this month’s “The Misanthrope” was shortened. Several cast members, like Brown, had less time between shows than they normally would. But Brown said COFAP prepared him well.

“It was very, very challenging,” he said. “I’ve been really fortunate, both times, to be surrounded by an amazing cast of people and close friends in this program who are always down to run lines with you and support you in any way.”

Pensis says it’s further proof that students are preparing themselves for the field.

“Their work ethic is really very high,” he said. “It is very demanding, but the profession is very demanding. I take my hat off to them.”

The performance is a season finale that the cast and crew say you don’t want to miss, especially comedy lovers.

“It’s a fun play. It’s a great way to wrap up the season, and some of it will play to a literary crowd that loves wordplay and some will play to a crowd that loves slapstick,” Pensis said. “We all love different aspects of comedy, and this touches on a great deal of them.”

Not to mention it’s the perfect way to take a 90-minute break from the academic stress that comes with finishing the semester.

“It’s just plain funny,” Bradford said. “It’s just a moment of fun, especially as we’re heading into finals and we’re just coming off of midterms.”

Sorrels sees it as the perfect production to take in without knowing what to expect.

“A lot of people get timid when they see shows they’ve never heard of by very ancient playwrights, but this is a really fun modern twist on it,” Sorrels said. “It doesn’t take long to fall in love with the story and figure out how all of these crazy characters are going to get out of the messes that they’ve made.

“I think this really encapsulates the end of our season.”

IF YOU GO

What: “The Misanthrope” by Molière

When:  7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 10, through Sunday, March 14

Where: Outdoor stage next to Fine Arts Building

Tickets: This show is a closed production for GCE and GCU employees, students and faculty members. It can be viewed via livestream on YouTube.

Information: 602-639-8979 or [email protected]

Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].

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Related content:

GCU Today: ‘Henry V’ features swords, a noble man … and God

GCU Today: Ethington Theatre’s ‘Wings’ lights up outdoor stage

GCU Today: Audiences give outdoor stage positive reviews

GCU Today: ‘Comedy of Errors’ kicks off outdoor theatre season

GCU Today: Outdoor theatre completed for Ethington season

GCU Today: Fine Arts goes all out to improvise for students


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One Response
  1. David Nicholson

    Congratulations for mounting this in difficult times, but if the Theatre Department really thinks “It’s just plain funny … It’s just a moment of fun” then it wasn’t the Misanthope that I know and love.

    Here are two assessments of the play by people worth listening to:

    “Part of the Misanthrope’s greatness lies, then, in its pushing comedy as far in the direction of tragedy as it can go”
    ~ American critic John Simon, 1975.

    “The Misanthrope’s brand of comedy makes solid citizens laugh without the kind of tasteless tired jokes they’ve become accustomed to. It elicits fewer guffaws, to be sure – it’s humour that engages the mind in a more lasting way; it evokes laughter in the soul [“rire dans l’âme.”]
    ~ translated from Jean Donneau de Visé, in a review of the 1666 opening night.

    Mar.16.2021 at 7:22 pm
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