HURON If you think soap operas can be fast and funny, check out "The Miser" and his kooky household currently on stage in McBride Auditorium at Firelands College Theatre.
There are silly characters, elaborate costumes and fun wigs to boot. Situations are pleasantly ridiculous. Action moves briskly. And communications get wildly confusing as the production builds to a frenetic, comedic peak. "The Miser" was written by Jean Baptiste Poquelin (1622-1673) who used the name Moliere to spare his family embarrassment in a time when theater was not considered a respectable profession.
Besides being a playwright, Moliere was also an actor and a director. He wrote such scintillating satire that 33 of his plays still entertain audiences around the world today. In his day, Moliere was a favorite of King Louis XIV. Moliere excelled in domestic comedies which targeted hypocrisy. "The Miser" is no exception.
Here the miser is Harpagon, a stingy, cantankerous old geezer who would rather have his fortune than his children. Anthony Gardner plays him well. His slender build and long, narrow face help to sell the look. Age makeup isn't bad but could be even stronger and should include both neck and hands. Gardner's voice and expressions work very well. Yet posture and movement could be more aged. Wild eyed bewilderment and frantic movements escalate nicely. All things considered, he's a very funny miser.
His two grown children, daughter Elise and son Cleante are fun too, but in different ways. Sara Ward as sweet Elise, is all pink and blue with bobbing chestnut curls. Cute as a button, she needs to be careful not to laugh when a straight face is required. A little more emphatic delivery wouldn't hurt either. Nonetheless, she's a darling daughter. Elise is in love with the servant Valere, played by Brandon Ohm. So of course there is lots of sneaking around, secret hand-holding, and flowery pledges of undying love. Ohm does a fine job depicting the troubled servant determined to flatter and agree with the crabby miser while deeply devoted to his darling daughter. He is expressive and animated.
Cleante must be seen to be believed.. Under a flowing mane of blond curls, Jeffrey Thropp portrays the sensitive son. His turquoise ensemble lined with ruffles and bows is an absolute scream. However, Thropp plays him like a straight man throughout. For my money, this getup begs a goofier characterization. But Thropp is sincere throughout, especially with his lady love, Trisha Kurtz as shy Mariane. She acts both repugnant of Harpagon and dreamy over Cleante. Her fan works well, as do her innocent glances and fearful expressions. A little more vibrant lipstick and eye makeup would enhance her pale complexion.
Several other characters deserve mention too. Chris Bilecki, Ellie Kay Bockert, and Joe Morsher play: La Fleche, Cleante's servant; Frosine, a scheming matchmaker; and Jacques, the miser's cook and coachman respectively. All three are extremely animated and just plain fun to watch. Bilecki darts to and fro confusing the old coot and loving it. He's a small delight. Persistent Bockert bats those eyes at Harpagon and flips her fun, fire red hair about conniving all the while. What a woman! No wonder she's the prototype for Dolly Levi of "Hello Dolly" fame. Morsher is great fun rushing in and out donning different uniforms as cook then coachman, only quicker exits and entrances would make this even funnier. His accents waver a bit, but he, too, is energetic and exciting. It's a fine little cast. Everyone pulls their weight.
Frank Glann, who has been teaching at Firelands, BGSU for more than 35, years directs "The Miser."
"The Miser" continues at 8 p.m. today and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.