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A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
Although I have had the opportunity this season to see two vastly different productions in New York, a traditional one by the Pearl Theatre Company and another one at the Classic Stage Company that was more freely adapted with verse by David Ives entitled School for Lies, I have to submit my complete surrender to this flawlessly directed, brilliantly articulated and lavishly designed production.
Prior to opening night, the thought of seeing yet another Misanthrope understandably did not fill me with anticipation or even expectation. In this production, the eyes are treated immediately to silvery blue decor of Celimene's pristine salon, as handsomely designed by Adam Miecielica. Although the appearance of glittering chandeliers is generally presumed as obligatory, it is the curved grand staircase that becomes the focal point of the action and is routinely used to great effect for entrances and exits. More importantly, our ears are treated to Wilbur's translation, one that is joyfully renewed by the excellence and exuberance of the actors.
John Patrick Hayden is making a splendid impression in his STNJ debut as the anti-social Alceste, who feels that it is his mission to remedy all the deceit and hypocrisy that he sees around him. Far removed from any hint that he subscribes to the affectations of the 17th century aristocracy, Hayden affects a disarmingly brusque countenance and a rousing voice as the non-conforming incorrigible who disdains and disapproves of every one and everything. Although Alceste must remain in a state of perpetual emotional and physical anguish throughout the play, Hayden is quite funny clutching at his spleen and most endearing as he slyly makes us privy to his mission. Hayden deploys Alceste's anti-social and irrational behavior with such misguided resolve that he actually makes us feel tenderly toward him and his self-righteous principles.
The Misanthrope is correctly considered Moliere's most mature and realistic farce and stands alongside Tartuffe as his supreme achievement. It is also filled with bright, often hilarious moments. Alceste's inflexibility makes him not only a general nuisance to society, but also a real problem to his friends. Jon Barker is a constant source of unexpected responses and disarming sincerity as Aleceste's well-meaning and worldly wise best friend Philinte.
Elizabeth A. Davis never let her delicate beauty compromise her gift for being subtly and subversively droll, particularly in her deliciously bitchy encounter with her older friend and rival Arsinoe, as played with comically coquettish bliss by Louisa Braden Johnson. She expresses more with one facial expression, and she has quite a treasure trove of them, than an entire page of verses, and leads the laugh parade.
Marcus Dean Fuller never missed an opportunity to underline the pomposity of the poet/poseur Oronte. Kersti Bryan's was consummately sincere and lovely to look as Eliante, who can't quite figure out with whom she is in love.
Roger Casey and Matt Bradford Sullivan were delightfully insufferable as Acaste and Clitandre, the self-enamored Marquises. Given a play that calls for posing and posturing in haute couture, costume designer Paul H. Canada deserves kudos for the sumptuous gowns worn by the women. But it is Monte's direction that has to be most highly praised for gloriously reaffirming the timeless joys and sorrows of The Misanthrope.
Slings & Arrows-the complete set
You don't have to be a Shakespeare aficionado to love all 21 episodes of this hilarious and moving Canadian TV series about a fictional Shakespeare Company