Recipe For Success
By Stacy Davies
Though the 17th-century French upper classes objected to the production, The Miser is not nearly as offensive as Moliere’s earlier religious comedy Tartuffe. Today’s audience will find all of the character’s in The Miser laughable, but not necessarily lovable.
The play follows a rich, penny-pinching moneylender, whose children wish for nothing more than to marry their lovers and move out of their father’s house.
The farcical nature of the piece embraces over-the-top performances from the actors, and Redlands Theatre Festival’s production definitely had that going for them.
Julia Tiley Wentland (Mariane) had the style down pat. She cooed and giggled as any young Disney damsel might, maintaining small, dorky asides. Her facial expressions alone were worth a laugh.
Kyle Anderson (Cleante) upheld the spoiled boy and young lover archetype quite nicely opposite Wentland’s musings. They sighed and gazed at each other, and stole secret glances of one another in public.
Carol Damgen (Maitre Jacques) is the perfect joker. She played along when she wanted to, and caused mischief whenever possible.
Gina Bernstein (Elise) showed off her comedy expertise with geeky, lovable charm. Her hair and eyeglasses only added to her physical humor.
Everyone had their moments to shine . . . but everyone also choked at one time or another.
I caught the second performance of the production (which has shows scheduled for Aug. 12 and 18). Though the production had been open for awhile, it felt like the cast could have used a few more line-throughs before opening.
Really, the quality of the production was spot on. From the costumes to the set and casting, everything felt very apropos for the piece. And the actors shined as their individual, stylized characters worked together. But the production fell flat when lines were dropped or mixed up.
Moliere’s comedies of manners are not easy to accomplish. But Redlands Theatre Festival had a recipe for success that just needed a bit more marinating.
Now, like I said, I saw the production early on in its run, and since then the ensemble could have easily tightened up and delivered every comedic moment planned and well improvised.
The many verbal and physical jokes that were not lost in the production are worth the ticket price alone. Redlands Theatre Festival organizers chose an excellent show that touches on a subject that is always relevant and can easily be made fun of: our love of money. And the execution is (almost) flawless.
Redlands Theatre Festival including The Miser, Nunsense, Radio Gals, Becky’s New Car and Greater Tuna at Prospect Park, Redlands, (909) 792-0562; www.rtfseason.org. Season runs thru Aug. 20. Ticket $18 general, $13 (groups of 20+).