note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Carl A. Rossi
Michel … Andy Grotelueschen
Du Croisy … Stephen Thorne
Mademoiselle Du Croisy … Janice Duclos
Mademoiselle De Brie … Rachel Warren
Du Parc … Mauro Hantman
Mademoiselle Du Parc … Phyllis Kay
Mademoiselle Moličre … Angela Brazil
La Grange … William Damkoehler
Brecourt … Stephen Berenson
Mademoiselle Bejart … Cynthia Strickland
Moličre … Fred Sullivan, Jr.
La Thorilliere … Timothy Crowe
The King … Timothy Crowe
Musicians … Paul Dube; Kevin Fallon
Have you ever attended a stage production that was totally delightful, superbly executed and terribly clever but left you as silent as the grave? If so, you might understand my enjoying Trinity Repertory’s spanking-new THE MOLIČRE IMPROMPTU without barking, once. This company collaboration is not a cerebral, drawing room affair with each word clamoring for attention but Low Comedy, pure and simple: Monsieur Moličre and his troupe are to perform for their King, a prospective patron, but the actors have not rehearsed his latest comedy, declaring it mediocre and far too inflammatory. When the King arrives soon after, Moličre whips up an improvisation of his farce A DOCTOR IN SPITE OF HIMSELF and allows a young rival, Michel, to have his moment in the sun. There are plenty of jokes, knockabout and even a few commedia masks, all dear to my heart, so why didn’t I fully embrace this well-oiled laugh machine? Perhaps it is too much of a machine --- compared to the interactive SHEAR MADNESS, THE MOLIČRE IMPROMPTU could run very nicely without an audience. Perhaps it is too big, too Huntington-like compared to the I Sebastiani troupe whose members sketch in their locales right before your eyes. Perhaps it smacks too much of a theatre history lesson compared to New Repertory’s SCAPIN which juggled its Moličre with a dazzling lightness, or it may boil down to the Trinity cast not being baggy-pants clowns by nature. My reservations, however, were not shared by the rest of the audience who whooped and hollered throughout and I am content to simply point and say: LAUGHTER --- THIS WAY.
If the evening belongs to anyone, that anyone is conceiver-director Christopher Bayes who has uprooted the company from Shakespeare’s soil and set them bouncing off the walls and each other (the production is more or less done in period with a few anachronisms thrown in). Hopefully, the cast will settle in and better orchestrate themselves for many are playing jai-alai instead of ping-pong, thus the most appealing performances are three low-key, minor ones: the still-wonderful William Damkoehler as the soapbox-ready La Grande, Janice Duclos as the asthmatic Mademoiselle Du Croisy and Timothy Crowe, hilariously cast against type as the foppish La Thorilliere and the solemn, unexpected King; there is also some enchanting horseplay between Andy Grotelueschen and Stephen Thorne demonstrating the transforming power of the Mask. When I learned that Fred Sullivan, Jr. would be playing Moličre, I predicted much mugging and prancing about and was not disappointed; Mr. Sullivan is in his element, here (i.e. shtick) but remains a guarded actor, one eye always on the audience, and is far more imitative than original. I’m still waiting for his Claudius --- a villain, for a change --- with Mr. Thorne as his tormenting stepson.