Amid hoop skirts and fluttering fans, 2nd Story Theatre's latest production is Moliere's most popular comedy "The Misanthrope". The show was written 340 years ago and is set in the antebellum South which director Ed Shea says fits with the courtly behavior of Moliere's Paris. The English translation is by Richard Wilbur and Shea declares Wilbur's rich rhyme and meter lends itself to the eloquent and elegant Southern drawl. Alceste is a man of nobility and manner who abhors untruthfulness and flattery, unless he is face to face with Celimene, the incorrigible flirt who steals his heart. However young Celimene, a social butterfly wants to live life to the fullest and desires many suitors woo her along the way. Eventually, Alceste's candor leads him to a heated dispute with Celimene. He takes his leave in the final scene like Rhett Butler with strains of the Tara theme from Gone With the Wind.This satire directed by and starring Ed Shea as Alceste is full of witticisms and shtick that keep the audience laughing all night long. After a 7-year acting hiatus, Ed Shea takes charge of the stage and brings his talent and the talent of his 10 fellow performers to new heights with wonderful pacing and dynamite acting talent, leading to a thunderous standing ovation at the close of the show.
The flowing language by the performers is amazing with all the rhyming dialogue and their reactions are priceless, too. Ed's interactions with the rest of the cast are excellent and his leading lady is fantastic, too. Lara Hakeem, clad in a gorgeous hoop skirt by Ron Cesario and designed from an authentic pattern from Gone With The Wind, steals many scenes with her coquettish behavior and her dancing to the Blues with her hoop skirt is hilarious. Their pairing is poetry in motion. Lara has developed into a splendid actress whom I first acted with back in 1987 in "Don't Drink the Water" when she was only 13 years old. Ed's direction and blocking of all his performers is topnotch. Other talented actors include Walter Cotter who plays Alceste's friend, Philinte and he feels his wrath when he compliments someone who he really doesn't like. Philinte ends up with Celimene's truth telling cousin, Eliante played winsomely by Maryellen Botvin. The boastful suitor who sues Alceste for criticizing his sonnet is well played by Jim Sullivan while the spiteful, prudish bitch, Arsinoe is wonderfully played by Melissa Penick and the foppish, rich young suitors are humorously played by Kyle Maddock and Ryan Maxwell. Kyle has a flirting scene with a woman in the audience and it is a hoot. Rounding out the cast is Peggy Becker as the disapproving maid, John Michael Richardson as a Confederate guard and Alex Sherba as Alceste's servant, who is dressed up as a woman with a beard. Not to spoil the fun of the show, I won't go into anymore detail of it. So for a fun filled evening of entertainment, be sure to catch "The Misanthrope" at 2nd Story Theatre.