THE ARTIFICE OF FUNNY: MOLIERE at the COMEDIE FRANCAISE

Its Always Good to be Funny, and, the “MISER” by Moliere, proves, once again, that funny, is good.

 

“The Miser” a little known play written by Moliere, and produced by the Comedie Francaise,  for the Fall 2010 Season has an offbeat and untraditional rendering by this distinguished company.  The settings were oddly askew, as, we are brought into the downstairs of a house built for a wealthy man in the 1660s.  The stairwells, levels, windows, and upper rooms above we can only imagine as, the characters negotiate  the stairways of this multi-leveled set piece.  Earth tones in the costumes and a realistic rendering of the surfaces draws us in closer to this world of family intrigue, a miser’s selfishness, his son’s trickery, and, the usual suspects that populate the stories of Moliere.

 

What makes this production of particular interest  are numerous:  the acting style varies with the age of the actor, the subtle, and, rather sprightly performance by the leads, and, in succession, the younger cast members, eager to please and a bit “over-technical” in their performances were in distinct contrast to the elder statesmen of the company.  This is to be expected, as, the acting style, or “house style” produced by the Comedie is a mixture of a MEISNER and STANISLAVSKY technique that is suited for the French language, and, for most of Moliere’s plays, in verse.  This particular piece was written in prose so the flow from one incident to another is not broken by the elements of poetry which can often put the modern audience off.   The great “bits” of stage history, all are present in this production which honors the Italian Commedia tradition. We are treated to the “Gendarmes” who enter to solve the “clues” of the crime, the “great aunt” who acts as Matchmaker, the Young Lovers, the Servants, and,  backstory of who is really who, and the who-dunnit, too.  Its all here, and, in resplendent glory.   How the 300 year old play and its characters manage to last this long confirms what we have always known:  Funny, is always, good. This piece has the funny, and, the darkly funny, combined.

The human experience, is always a true barometer of great art, no matter what sort of “frame” it is presented.  In this case, the proscenium opening of the stage:  Here, we are meant to peer in, see the activities of a household, and, its problems.  We are asked to try to “solve” the mystery of the stolen jewels, solve a love trianagle, that sets this plot into motion.  A moment, quite “unhistoric” is when the main character, bolts out over the stage, and, onto the seats, breaking that “fourth wall” to connect directly with the audience.  This, was a true historic moment in which the “traditions” of the typical Moliere presentation, was “set ablaze” and, we could see that the form, old, creaky, and tired, was begging to become fresh, and, new again.  This is a distinctly French experience, in, that while they love to view the traditions of their culture,  they embrace the new, fresh, unique, and, modern, at the same time.

Its ARTIFICE at its best.

See information on the website at:  comedie-francaise.fr

 

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