A wise Sir Walter Raleigh once said “I wish I loved the human race, I wish I loved its silly face, and when I’m introduced to one, I wish I thought ‘what jolly fun!’” It’s funny how well Raleigh’s quote seems to capture the essence of Moliere’s character, Alceste, in The Misanthrope. NEIU’s Stage Center brings us into the misanthropic world of Alceste via 80’s pop, witty rhyming couplets and absurdly funny characters that seem to have only their own personal interests in mind. What is Alceste to do when his heart aches for a woman (Celimene) who is beautifully flawed and flirting with every suitor that crosses her path (Clitandre and Acaste), is surrounded by a wanna-be sonnet writer (Oronte) and a woman that just can’t take a hint (Arsinoe)? Thankfully Alceste has his friends, (Philinte and Eliante,) to keep him grounded through this maelstrom of dilemmas.
Stage Center’s The Misanthrope is directed by NEIU CMT professor, Rodney Higginbotham, and set in 1989 in Celimene’s home in Hollywood. One may not understand the significance of The Misanthrope being setin 1989 and in Hollywood; a misanthrope is someone who is “a hater of mankind, a person who distrusts and avoids other people.” It makes perfect sense that a misanthropic Alceste is placed in superficial Hollywood of the 1980’s. Striving to support its period piece re-imagining, the set itself included zebra printed pillows, a bulky stereo, and an old school cordless antenna phone with a cassette answering machine. The costumes were just as memorable because they reflected the 80’s flashy-trash fashion, being colorfully unforgettable and odd (in a good way).
For many plays, especially older ones, revising a play to fit the allotted time while still staying true to the essence of the play and its conflicts can be difficult. However, one of the most applause-worthy aspects of the production was the fact that while everything physical was modernized, the characters and their dialogues, specifically the rhyming couplets, were able to stay true to Moliere. The cast of The Misanthrope was able to successfully deliver the irony and the wry comedy lines that Moliere plants in his plays. If the Stage Center ever puts on another Moliere production, it is definitely worth seeing.