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A Misanthrope ~ WSC Avant Bard ~ Theatre on the Edge ~ Gunston Arts Center

Jordan Wright
June 6, 2019 

Warning: Extremely high doses of wacky irreverence could result in uncontrollable hilarity.

Playwright Matt Minnicino’s adaptation, he calls it a new “distillation”, of Molière’s classic The Misanthrope tore the house down at its world premiere last night.  A re-interpretation of the 17th century farce skewering French aristocracy, Minnicino delivers in spades with a band of frivolous, self-centered snobs, oblivious to the hoi polloi (Tag yourselves, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Kardashian, James Franco, Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, et alia).  This booze-swilling brat pack speaks in rhyming couplets, mixing formal dialogue and philosophical musings with modern American slang.  Set in the posh environs of the South of France, it is fall-down-dead hilarious and monumentally clever.

(l-r) Hannah Sweet (Basque), Elliott Kashner (Alceste), Thais Menendez (Celimene). CREDIT: DJ Corey Photography

Alceste is a cynical, smitten preppie whose target is the alluring, and self-adoring Celimene.  He hates deceit yet craves the company of the most deceitful of them all.  Swanning luxuriantly around the pool deck in luxuriantly revealing garb, she teases and taunts the men while insulting her female competition, especially the prudish Arsinoe, a woman of a certain age who’s got the hots for Alceste.  “I’ve been programmed to pussyfoot around,” she admits.

(l-r)Patrick Joy (Clitandre), Thais Menendez (Celimene), Jenna Berk (Philinte), Chloe Mikala (Eliante) ~ Photo credit JD Corey

Unfortunately, Miss C. prefers her trendy pals and glam lifestyle far more than an angst-ridden, lovesick dweeb and pits him against Oronte, a sophomoronic wannabe poet who’s got plenty of dough to satisfy Miss C. and is suing Alceste for slander.  For those wondering if Alceste will get his comeuppance (although we secretly cheer his irreverence) there is Philinte, Alceste’s gal pal and reality check, who challenges his insincerity at every turn.  “We are living in a society of vacuity, fatuousness and folly,” she admonishes.

Sara Barker (Arsinoe), Elliott Kashner (Alceste). Photo credit DJ Corey

Minnicino’s earlier forays into classical adaptations have included Chekhov, Strindberg, Shakespeare, Homer, and Sophocles (no mean feat).  But you needn’t have read any one of these literary titans to enjoy this snarky funfest.

(l-r) Matthew Sparacino (Oronte), Thais Menendez (Celimene), Patrick Joy (Clitandre), Tendo Nsubuga (Acaste), Elliott Kashner (Alceste). Photo credit DJ Corey

Director Megan Behm expertly wrangles this fierce cast led by Elliott Kashner as Alceste, Thais Menendez as Celimene, Jenna Berk as Philinte, Matthew Sparacino as Oronte, Sara Barker as Arsinoe and Patrick Joy as Clitandre. with Tendo Nsubuga as Acaste, Chloe Mikala as Eliante and Hannah Sweet as Basque/DuBois.

Costumes by Alison Samantha Johnson, Set Design by Megan Holden, Lighting Design by Elizabeth Roth, Properties Design by Liz Long.

A veritable verbal slugfest with a mountain of the funniest zingers since the Marx Brothers took on high society in “A Night at the Opera”.

Highly recommended.

Through June 30th at Gunston Arts Center, 2700 South Lang Street, Arlington, VA 22206.

Avant Bard tickets are $40.00, and available online at avantbard.org/ticketsor by calling 703-418-4808. For every Avant Bard performance, a limited number of tickets are Pay What You Will, which means you can name your price. You can reserve PWYW tickets online the Monday before each performance for a small service minimum, or at the door with no minimum. All Avant Bard tickets including PWYW are General Admission; seating is first-come first-served.

Saturday matinees are followed by Unscripted Afterchats with members of the creative team.

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