One of the great joys of classical theatre is to be able to revisit works that one knows: or thinks that one knows. A good play always has something new to show you.
Case in point tonight, seeing the opening of Guild Festival Theatre’s production of Molière’s The Misanthrope.
This is the third season for GFT under the leadership of Sten Eirik, an astute Artistic Director. They began with Chekhov in 2011, followed by Aristophanes in 2012 and now? Molière. In a time of fiscal restraint, the company seems to be growing, helped by partnerships with the community & supportive politicians.
It’s a pleasure seeing how Eirik uses the outdoor amphitheatre space to advantage, a space of wonderful classical resonances due to its stunning stone backdrop salvaged from an old Toronto bank. Many moments were simply perfect due to the magical setting. At one point we watch two lovers playing hide and seek in a semi-lit playing area, illuminated by the moon above, serenaded by cicadas and bird-song. We’d begun near sunset, watching in twilight and finally darkness in this unique location. Eirik’s understanding of the Molière was very clearly delineated in this reading. We began with a very slow, even pompous encounter between Alceste (Bruce Beaton) & Philinte (Rick Persich). The character types are self-consistent, as we shall see, and therein lies the wonderful tension that energizes the work and this production, in the meeting of these extremes..
Oronte (Ryan Egan) arrives, one of the most delicious fops I’ve seen in awhile, and as far away from Beaton’s seriousness as you can get. I would have burst out laughing in Beaton’s place, but he was always gravely deadpan in the face of Egan’s pretentious poses & faces.
Wonderful as Beaton & especially Egan (who had me roaring throughout) were, the two female leads were as good or better. The scene between Célimène (Sochi Fried) and Arsinoe (Tina Sterling) was hair-raising, and considering this was opening night, wonderfully precise in the timing of their exchanges. Fried & Sterling seemed most comfortable with the language –a witty translation in couplets by Richard Wilbur— in their deliciously acid exchanges.
The additional delightfully attired foppery supplied by Clitandre (Andrew Pimento) & Acaste (John Chou) pushed us happily into several moments of wild laughter. The other somewhat serious person present, Célimène’s cousin Eliante (Leslie DosRemedios) had several beautiful moments, so much so that one might have wished her part were larger.
Guild Festival Theatre’s production of The Misanthrope continues until August 11th.