This adaptation was created by the MoCo trio - co-Artistic Directors Dominique Serrand (director) and Steven Epp (Alceste) and Producing Artistic Director Nathan Keepers (Philinte). (The fourth member of the MoCo team, Artistic Associate Christina Baldwin, also serves as the Jungle's Artistic Director, making this an ideal partnership.) The creators have taken this 350-year-old play and made it feel modern, yet timeless. They've pared down the cast to just Alceste (the titular misanthrope), his friend Philinte, and three women, who in this version are sisters, giving them a life and relationships separate from just their association with the men. The play begins with Philinte trying to convince his friend not to leave society, and Alceste putting up a pretty good argument for why he feels he must (because again, people can be awful). His one weakness is his love for Célimène (Liz Wisan), who's the opposite of Alceste - flirtatious and popular and in love with the world. Her sisters Éliante (Tracey Maloney) and Arsinoé (Sally Wingert) join the conversation, one more pleasant than the other. Not too much happens over the course of the 95-minute play, just ideas discussed, and relationships formed or broken.
|Steven Epp and Nathan Keepers (photo by Dominique Serrand)|
The pace and the staging of the play are so lovely and unhurried, things playing out in their own time and space. The Jungle's shoebox diorama of a stage is fully open to a worn and marked brick wall that, if it's not the actual back wall of the theater, is a great facsimile. More brick walls on the sides frame the space at the back, with a bare floor and open wings creating a spacious feel. Actors walk all around the space, into the corners, facing away from us, walking into the wings while continuing their conversation. There's a water element, as there often is with MoCo (they also often use a tarp on stage, but not for the same reasons as the recent Twin Cities Horror Festival). Water drips from the ceiling for much of the play, for what reason I'm not sure, other than it creates interesting audio and visual texture (and for some reason Steven Epp does his best work when he's wet). After the opening scene another tarp is removed to uncover a dressing room table with mirrors and bright lights directly facing the audience (which I suspect may be the same piece used in 2021's post-pandemic catharsis Anamnesis). It's a startling effect when first revealed, showing us ourselves, and as the action continues it gives us a double view of the actors.
|the sisters: Liz Wisan, Tracey Maloney, and Sally Wingert|
(photo by Dominique Serrand)
Alceste is a character who does "say all the truth," or else the truth as he sees it, holding nothing back in his sharp criticism of everyone and everything. But where does that lead him? This lovely production explores those ideas within the framework of a centuries old and often told story. MoCo's artistry is truly unmatched, and they bring that sensibility to this successful co-pro with the Jungle Theater. Playing Wednesdays through Sundays (except Thanksgiving) until November 26.