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Moliere's The Miser at Lansdale Center for Performing Arts

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Steve Wright as HarpagonIt may be far from contemporary, but given today’s penny-pinching climate, The Miser, which is set to open Friday, March 26 at Lansdale Center for Performing Arts, may hit home for audience members who come to enjoy the comical production. 

Written by Molière in 1668, The Miser is a comedy that tells the story of a man’s obsession with getting wealthy by marrying off his two kids and finding his own beautiful, frugal bride. But if you’re unsure on your taste for French plays, there’s more than one reason to go: there's puppets! 

The Miser marks the first performance of the not-for-profit professional theater group, Lansdale Theatre Works

“In a world in which headlines are dominated by corporate greed and mega-bonuses, what better story to tell than that of a man obsessed with gaining and maintaining money?” said director Daniel Student. 

Except for a few adult moments throughout the play, Student said The Miser is a “ wonderful comedy that the whole family can enjoy.” 

Student, of Plays and Players Theatre in Philadelphia, is using what he described as a “wonderful modern and hip translation,” adapted by James Magruder

“I think this translation does a wonderful job of modernizing the language without taking the show out of its time, place, or original intent,” Student said. “Its characters speak with sarcasm and word play, and particularly the female characters are given strength and guile that they did not originally have to such an extent.” 

The MiserSimilar to Moliere’s performance style, characters perform “lazzi” or interruptions to the plot, running around the stage, contorting their bodies, doing who knows what. These interruptions are popular in many comedies today, Student said, pointing to the hit TV show Family Guy as an example. 

“If you have ever watched an episode of Family Guy, and Peter fights for a minute and a half with some guy in a chicken suit, and then they go back to the show like nothing happened, well, actually that's a ‘lazzi,’” he said. 

“There is a scene in this play in which a character just pounds a puppet mercilessly. If people laugh at Family Guy, they are sure to laugh at that,” he added. 

In this performance, a small cast is utilized. Steve Wright plays Harpagon, the lead character, and Dawn Harvey, executive director and founder of Lansdale Theatre works, is also appearing in the production. 

Student said he’s incorporated the use of puppets to not only cut down on costs and deal with small quarters, but “mostly, puppets are just awesome,” he said. 

So some characters are in masks, some aren’t, and some are represented by puppets. Student said he doesn’t expect the audience to get his reasoning entirely. But he did, however, try to explain: 

“Commedia dell 'Arte originally was performed all in masks and there was a standard group of archetypes performed, including young lovers, a miserly old man, and a host of buffoon/clown servants, all of which show up in this play. 

Puppets“I knew I wanted the lovers in modern garb. They are our heroes of the play, and they all have major flaws in their personalities that they overcome in the name of love. They escape their role, or ‘archetype,’ in society by finding solace in each other. So they don't need archetype masks. 

“Harpagon, The Miser, does need a mask and can never take it off, because he is so lost in his lust for money, that he has become a stereotype, an ‘archetype’ which still exists today. 

“Finally, the servants are in a way equally guilty of confirming to their archetype, puppets; manipulated by rich men like Harpagon. They represent the people who work for huge corporations, who buy into the very system that exploits us.” 

Still don’t get it? That’s OK. Maybe you will after seeing the play. 

Performances will be held at the Lansdale Center for Performing Arts and will take place on March 26th & 27th as well as April 9th & 11th at 7:30 PM. Tickets are available online at www.lansdalecpa.org or by calling the Lansdale Center for Performing Arts at 215-361-1296. Adults: $20. 

For more information on the production, to participate as a sponsor, or to learn more about Lansdale Theatre Works, contact Dawn Harvey at 908-432-2553.

Jessica Beym can be contacted at jessicabeym@gmail.com.

Philly2Philly.com reviewed another Moliere play, Scapin, produced by the Lantern Theater Company earlier this year. To read more about it, click here