“In short, when they act more like horse’s feces, I want to break away from my species,” the titular character from Molière’s classic The Misanthrope says, effectively establishing his attitude toward humankind. Westminster’s College of the Arts is bringing the play to life, using a talented ensemble cast and the directing talents of Rider’s own Miriam Mills.
The Misanthrope is a satirical 17th century comedy of manners which criticizes French society and people in general. The two-act play is fast-paced, witty and written entirely in verse. This method renders the dialogue rhythmic and melodic.
It tells the story of the misanthrope, Alceste, portrayed by junior musical theater major Greg Clark, who is highly critical of the people around him. According to Webster’s dictionary, a misanthrope is a person who dislikes humankind and avoids society.
Alceste adheres to a strong, rigid set of values which conflict with his irrational and powerful love of the flirtatious and fickle Célimène, played by senior theater major Madeline Calandrillo, who has a host of other suitors. Alceste’s unwillingness to compromise drives the action of the story and defines his interactions with the other characters.
While a work of comedy, it is also an unflinching critique of hypocrisy, coquetry, dishonesty and unrealistic expectations. The play offers a litany of vibrant, multi-dimensional characters that animate the story and bring depth and believability.
Mills has been an integral part of the theater department for decades. She has been teaching and directing at Rider for nearly 30 years and has directed somewhere between 35 and 40 plays during her time here.
“I’d never done Molière before,” Mills said. “I thought it was time the kids tackled something this difficult and important for their repertoire. It’s one of the great plays.”
Adding to the difficulty, the actress for Célimène, senior theater major Camille Seefelt, needed to be replaced when the original performer contracted mononucleosis. Calandrillo stepped up to the challenge.
“It was very overwhelming to be thrown into this show at such short notice, but through all of the training I have learned during my time at Rider, I definitely feel prepared,” Calandrillo said.
She is also grateful to be backed up by a solid support system.
“The cast and crew welcomed me with such open arms,” she said. “Mills has been so supportive and that support has really has trickled down through the rest of the cast.”
Mills was impressed by the dedication Calandrillo showed.
“She’s only been rehearsing for two and a half weeks,” Mills said. “She’s extraordinary.”
While The Misanthrope was not a critical success during its initial run in 1666, it has risen to prominence and remains one of Molière’s most beloved and recognized plays. The complexity of the dialogue makes it a difficult production to make real, but according to Mills, this makes it all the more worthwhile.
“The Misanthrope is as hard as any tough Shakespeare play,” she said. “I’m just so proud of the actors.”
The Misanthrope will be performed in the Yvonne Theater from Feb. 27 to March 3. Tickets for the preview performance on Feb. 27 are $9 and only available at the door. The tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students and seniors for all other performances. Contact the box office at 609-896-7775 or email email@example.com.
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Printed in the 2/22/13 edition