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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
THE MISANTHROPE
at Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey

COQUETTES DON’T AGE
By ROBERT L. DANIELS

  John Patrick Hayden and Louisa Braden Johnson/ Ph: Gerry Goodstein

A dazzling revival of Moliere's The Misanthrope has opened the 49th season of the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey. A grand-scale mix of humor and humanity, the timeless comedy has been staged by artistic director Bonnie J. Monte in a most elegant fashion mounted in crisp and stylish manner – all in all, a decidedly caustic and witty delight.
 
Moliere is always a welcome staple of repertory theater. The familiar adaptation by Richard Wilbur is spoken in rhymed couplets that are not only amusing, but infectious, providing dialogue that dances and sings with a rhythmic flow. It is delivered with great skill and style by a first rate cast. Diverting and most charming, Monte has directed with a deft sure hand that defines the playwrights provocative situations and cutting wit, while keeping the focus on the racy storyline light and accessible.
 
The performances are simply delicious. John Patrick Hayden is superb in the title role of the smug little hero. He avoids the foppish approach so often seen in Moliere revivals. He balances his clumsy amorous approach with the wild rage of a jungle beast. He balances a priggish and tortured fool with lofty precision.
 
And what a delectable Celimene as acted by Elisabeth A. Davis. Fragile, statuesque and a porcelain vision, Davis is a Royal Dalton figurine come to life. When she moves about the stage in Paul H. Canada's sumptuous costumes, she simply floats. She is an alluring coquette in a splendidly modulated performance.
 
As the acutely bitchy Arsinoe, Braden Johnson defines a two-faced gossip with lethal claws. In the final arch verbal cat fight, the ladies leap to the throat shredding the thin veil of civility. The supporting players all rise to occasion with Jon Barker as the witty resolute Philinte. Roger Casey, Matt Bradford Sullivan and Marcus Dean Fuller all add great pitch and panache to the comic intrigue.
 
A sweeping staircase dominates the exquisite set design by Adam Miecielica. Sparsely furnished, the action takes place in an elegant 17th century drawing room. And as noted, Canada's costumes are sublimely elegant.
 
For the record, The Misanthrope opened in Paris on June 1, 1661, 345 years to the day before the Garden State opening in Madison. 

 


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