Molière one-act comedies emphasize humor in everyday life

The department of theater and dance is presenting a performance titled “Love and Laughter in Repertory: Two Plays by Molière” from Monday April 18-23 at the Black Box Theater. Molière was a French playwright and actor who lived in the 17th century and is often considered one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature. He studied at the Collège de Clermont and after 13 years as an actor, he began writing. He based his plays on the methods and materials of commedia dell’arte, French farces and neoclassical theatre.

Commedia dell’arte is a form of theater characterized by masked actors. This tradition began in Italy in the 16th century and led to more improvised performances based on sketches and scenarios. Commedia masks capture exaggerated, unusual facial features as an indication of personality.

The first play in “Love and Laughter” is a one-act comedy called “The Jealous Husband,” translated by Alfred Bermel and directed by junior William K Gfeller, with choreography by junior Sierra Bouchard. This play is about a middle aged man, Le Barbouillé—played by junior Chase Watkins—who claims he is the “unhappiest of men” because his wife appears to be straying from him; living her own life that isn’t entirely about catering to his needs.

Sophomore Rachel Britton plays Angélique—Barbouillé’s wife—and she argues that her husband makes her unhappy as well because he spends so much time hanging around in bars. She attempts to sneak out to a party in hopes of meeting with her lover, Valère—played by junior Jordan Griffen—but her husband returns home before she does. This initially leads to another argument, but ultimately the couple comes to a compromise.

This play is set in the 1940s, as Gfeller wanted to place this show in an iconic setting in American history in order to add personality and some fun to what could be seen as a dated comedy.

The second play is another one of Moliére’s one-act comedies called “The Forced Marriage,” also translated by Bermel, directed by junior Joshua Shabshis and choreography by Bouchard. Shabshis wanted to combine Molière’s influences with his Eastern European roots and upbringing and this play captures the historical roots of contemporary slapstick comedy.

“The Forced Marriage” follows a 52-year-old man, Sganarelle—played by Griffen—as he decides whether or not he wants to marry the young Dorimène. He consults his friend Géronimo—played by senior Paige Gordon—as well as, Pancrace—an Aristotelian scholar played by freshman Wesley Ebersole—Marphurius—a Pyrrhonian scholar played by sophomore Kimberly Romano—and fortune tellers—played by Ebersole and Gordon.

Dorimène is eager to marry Sganarelle, but only because he is so much older than her and has amassed a great deal of wealth. She plans on marrying him with hopes of quickly becoming a widow so she can live in leisure with her lover, Lycaste—played by junior Thomas Magnus.

But when Sganarelle learns of her attitude toward their potential marriage, he goes to her father, Alcantor—played by sophomore Matt Tyler—in an attempt to leave the arranged marriage. This angers Alcantor, so he sends his son Alcidas—played by freshman Jenna Bunce, who is a great fencer—to give Sganarelle an ultimatum. Ultimately, Sganarelle is forced into the marriage with Dorimène.

These actors and directors in the department of theater and dance captured the hilarious comedies, which expertly characterize Molière’s work. “Love and Laughter” engages the audience in the performance and successfully explores the questions, humor and relationships that characterize our lives.