Known for its heightened physical Commedia dell’Arte and mirth, the award winning Faction of Fools Theatre Company takes on Molière’s The Miser for a delightful romp of wit and foolery. In the hands of the Fools, even the slightest nuance can result in a topple of bodies to aid the interpretation and meaning, and this fun original translation turns Molière’s piece upside down with laughter.
Who knew that the French playwright’s masterpiece would lend itself so readily to physical comedy art? Apparently the artistic designers did in selecting, and directing this no holds barred interpretation. It’s a perfect combination to express the sentiment, sentimentality, mistaken identity and overall interpretation of human traits, foibles, and desires. Of all of the versions of The Miser I’ve seen over the years, this one stacks up as being one of the best in terms of originality, fun, warmth and style.
The artistry goes beyond slapstick. Toby Mulford is perfect as Harpagon, the Miser. His classic comedic training is apparent with every move, whether he’s shaking down a character for errant coins, trembling with desire over his bounty, or doing an old man strut thinking he’s an object of desire. He’s a sight to be cherished as he deals with any and all who try to separate him from his strong box of cash.
Rachel Spicknall Mulford shows exquisite skill in her two roles as the love interest Elise and the money grubbing Frosine. Kathryn Zoerb demonstrates a command beyond her years in the physical manifestation of Valère with a consistent stance and meaningful gaze upon Elise. They are both delightful to watch. Clayton Pelham, Jr. adds artistic zest and appeal as both the son Cléante and a duel role as the master chef, sometimes simultaneously with hilarious results. In her first appearance with the Fools, Jane Enabore relays a sweet innocence as Mariane in a commendable performance. Her interactions with the characters via ASL and use of an interpreter to communicate with her beloved Cleante add a level of poignancy that enhances the show.
Costumes (Lynly Saunders) go from baggy pants with suspenders to master chef white with a tall chef hat that converts to French chapeaux with ease—nicely done.
closes June 26, 2016
Details and tickets
As always, the masks add a special touch to enhance the numbers of characters while the specialized physical movements make it very clear who is doing what to whom.
Music and sound director Mehdi Raoufi does a masterful job during scenes of overlapped text and ardent pitches of desire. The lovers sway when the Argentine tango beckons while the jazzy riffs help loosen the mood. The scenic design (Daniel Flint) includes a platform lengthwise across the stage to provide an alternate level and facilitate ready entrances and exits.
“You can change or not. It’s up to you. Your only choice is whether life will go on because of or in spite of you.
But it will go on.” Molière, quoted by Toby Mulford
These are wonderful sentiments to ponder while we grapple with the hysterically historical events unfolding in our own real time. Faction of Fools provide a welcome relief from today’s reality of madness with a timeless tale of a miser determined to get what he wants in life, no matter what.
I look forward to their Merchant of Venice that opens their Fall season—we’ll need the Fools then, more than ever.
The Miser by Molière . Translated by George Mulford . Directed by Toby Mulford . Featuring Toby Mulford, Jane Enabore, Rachel Spicknall Mulford, Clayton Pelham, Kathryn Zoerb . Scenic design: Daniel Flint . Lighting Design: David Ghatan. Costume Design: Lynly Saunders . Sound Design: Mehdi Raoufi . Stage Manager, Jenna Ballard. Produced by Faction of Fools. Reviewed by Debbie Jackson.