Molière: Comic Genius
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
"Laughter, the Best Medicine," counsels Reader's Digest in its long-running feature. The 17th-century French playwright Jean-Baptiste Poquelin — known to the world as Molière — would agree (although he would probably have mocked the source.)
Join us for a month-long celebration of Molière, whose scathing comic dramas are as hilarious and true as ever. Each Monday in June, an ensemble of New York actors will perform his works as radio dramas: The Bungler, Lover's Quarrels, The School for Husbands, The Imaginary Cuckold and The Misanthrope. At each event, a distinguished guest speaker will help us see how Molière's robust work and his enduring themes still manage to resonate after four centuries: the complexities of human relationships, the hypocrisy inherent in the attainment of political power, the absurdities that come with rising social status.
This fawning age has praise for everyone,
And all distinctions, Madam, are undone.
All things have equal honor nowadays,
And no one should be gratified by praise.
To be admired, one only need exist,
And every lackey’s on the honors list.
— The Misanthrope
Molière Series Schedule
- The Bungler (1655)
Monday, June 3
Molière’s first recognizably great play and the first to be written in verse. Set in Sicily and born of the great Italian tradition of the Commedia dell’arte, this charming farce follows the fortunes of a young romantic who can’t stop sabotaging his own efforts to win the attention of his beloved. Directed by Sarah Montague and featuring Sean McNall, Charlotte Parry, Steven Rattazzi and Reg Rogers.
- Lover's Quarrels (1656)
Monday, June 10
Molière’s second verse comedy, which premiered in 1656 with the author playing the role of the irascible Albert. It’s a madcap story of petty jealousy and comic deception where marriage comes before love and many tricks add up to a treat. Directed by Sarah Montague and featuring Richard Easton, Elizabeth Hess, Sean McNall, Charlotte Parry, Amanda Quaid and Steven Rattazzi.
- The School for Husbands (1661) and The Imaginary Cuckold (1660)
Monday, June 17
Produced most often by Molière’s theater company during his lifetime. Both plays make a mockery of the doddering Sganarelle, first in the role of a controlling suitor and then cast again as a rash and foolish husband. Directed by Cecilia Rubino (Triangle: From the Fire) and featuring Paul Hecht, Elizabeth Hess, Charlotte Parry, Steven Rattazzi, Reg Rogers and CJ Wilson.
- The Misanthrope (1666)
Monday, June 24
Molière’s comic masterpiece indicts a frivolous Parisian society, and its most scathing critic, with sharp observations about the nature of friendship, ambition, and courtship that still resonate today. Directed by Jesse Berger (Artistic Director, Red Bull Theater) and featuring Hamish Linklater, Christian Conn, Cameron Folmar, Sean McNall, Charlotte Parry, Amanda Quaid and CJ Wilson.
The Author and His Works
Molière wrote 12 full-length satires and six shorter farces and comedies, in both prose and verse. Some of the earlier works drew on the broad comedic tradition of Commedia dell'Arte, with its stock characters and universal plot lines depicting greed, love and lust. But his major works, like "The Misanthrope," are subtler character studies that also skewer French society's morals, manners and pretenses.
Molière was an actor/manager who wrote for a troupe of players with whom he toured the French countryside and played Parisian theaters. The Greene Space will pay homage to this tradition by assembling our own troupe of New York-based actors to perform in a vivid sampling of the playwright's works, from his first verse comedy, "The Bungler," to his masterpiece "The Misanthrope." Molière: Comic Genius will be directed by WNYC's award-winning producer Sarah Montague. Cecilia Rubino will direct School for Husbands and Imaginary Cuckold, with Jesse Berger directing The Misanthrope.
Molière: Comic Genius actually offers audiences the work of two great artists — Molière, and his distinguished translator, Richard Wilbur, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and former Poet Laureate of the United States. As Dana Gioia, award-winning poet and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, has written, "It would be hard to over-praise Wilbur’s special genius for verse translation. Whether recreating the witty badinage of Molière or the high tragic music of Racine or Corneille, Wilbur has the uncanny ability to create English versions that never feel like translations."