Saturday, October 10, 2009

Moliere’s The Miser

Moliere’s The Miser
By Joe Straw
Love can go horribly wrong. Love, with its insatiable desires, is a pain in the gut. But no matter how young or old you are love always manages to find a soft resting place.
 The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum showcases this love in a wonderful production of Moliere’s The Miser directed by Ellen Geer.

Alas, love is not without its complications.

The plot of The Miser is simple enough. Harpagon (Alan Blumenfeld) is a penny-pinching father of two: a daughter Elise (Samara Frame) and a son Cleante (Mike Peebler). Both are of marrying age.

The children’s current love relationship is problematic because of their partner’s relationship with their father. Elise has secretly fallen in love with Valere (Chad Jason Scheppner) her father’s servant. Cleante has secretly fallen in love with Mariane (Willow Greer) his father’s fiancée.

But Harpagon will have none of it. He has (for materialistic considerations) provided suitable arranged marriages for Cleante to a window and Elise to Lord Anselme (Bill Durham) and, of course, no one wants to be a party to this plan.

And Harpagon not trusting anyone including La Fleche, Cleantes’ servant, (Mark Lewis) has decided to bury his strongbox in the garden.

Arranged marriage or not Harpagon has no money for their marriage, for their party, and for the food and wine for the guests. He won’t feed the horses to retrieve the guests and he won’t mend the servants’ clothes. He won’t lend anyone money. And he won’t feed the dog. And yet, he surrounds himself with intelligent companions who gamely struggle to relieve him of his wealth.

So, as love would have it, conspiratorial plans go into overdrive. Cleantes’ plan is to use his servant La Fleche to take Marianne away from his father.

Elise conspires with Frosine (Melora Marshall) a woman with womanly wiles to use every conceivable trick to get Harpagon to break up his engagement.

In the meantime the coachman/cook/judge Master Jacques (Ted Barton) manages to put everyone into a state of confusion will his illogical logic.

Blumenfeld as Harpagon takes command of the stage and never lets up. He listens carefully and is pragmatic in his choices. He is in the moment and takes delight with his objective of not letting a single coin drop through his slimy fingers.

Marshall as Frosine is brilliant. Sweat pours from her brow in her grueling battle to get a few dollars out of Harpagon. It is one of the highlights of the show.

Barton as Master Jacques is just delightful. Never letting up for a minute and very funny from one sarcastic moment to the next.

Frame as Elise is good and so is Peebler as Cleante, but his costume is slightly distracting. The overly extended blue protruding codpiece is visible to the elderly sitting in the balcony seats.

Scheppner as Valere was very charming but must watch the cane swinging antics of Harpagon.
Geer as Marianne was outstanding.

David Marmer played Maitre Simon. Don Pitts was The Magistrate and the clerk was played by Cameron Kalajian.

Ellen Geer does an outstanding job directing the fine actors on stage but runs into relationship problems Lewis as La Fleche. His commanding presence gave no indication that he was a servant of Cleante. And Durham as Don Anselme father figure was not fully fleshed out.

Also Geer composed original songs in this production with lyrics by Geer and Peter Alsop. The music was unexpected and delightful. The pianist was Lloyd Botway.

The servants in the cast did a fine job and could have used a spotlight during the singing numbers. They were Nina Kurtz, Paul Turbiak, Ricky Wagner, Leah Gutentag, and Jennifer Schoch.

The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum is a delightful place to get away from it all. Brings a picnic basket. Stay a while before and after the performance. You’ll feel like you been away for a while.
The Miser was first preformed in 1668.

Reservations: 310-455-3723 or

No comments:

Post a Comment