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‘The Misanthrope’ to open at The Theatre School

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This week, The Theatre School will set French playwright and author Moliere’s “The Misanthrope” — directed by DePaul MFA student Brian Balcom — in the modern world to explore society and human nature through an insightful and fresh perspective.

First performed in 1666 Paris, the play originally satirizes French aristocratic society and its hypocrisies. Although it has been 350 years, the themes and characters Moliere created have survived through time, making it his most prominent work today.

There have been many adaptations of the play, but DePaul’s production will use the original translation by Richard Wilbur to bring this story to our own society.

Brian Healy takes on the lead role of Alceste, who he describes as a “true misanthrope in every way” with a “vast distaste for human nature and society, as well as a redeeming quality of overwhelming passion for what he believes in.” He discussed the benefits of performing Moliere’s complex ideas and speculations in comparison to more contemporary roles he’s been in.

“Each character in this play is there for a reason, and that’s to provide insight to the way people behave,” Healy said. “It may sound contradictory, but because everything in the world of this play is so heightened and passionate, I find it almost easier than more subtle roles. The text informs the way the characters should act in a way that, in my opinion, many contemporary scripts do not. If I just stay true to the text and trust in the rhetoric of the language, the ‘acting’ part comes easy.”

Healy finds watching all aspects of this large production come together — the set, costumes, lights, sound and acting — to be the most fascinating part of the experience. He also enjoys his role of Alceste due to the character’s important place in the story.

“It has been great because I don’t get a whole lot of downtime to think about how I should be playing the role,” Healy said. “Since I’m on stage almost the entire play, I just have to trust my impulses and ride the wave of the show.”

In her third year at The Theatre School, Chloe Baldwin plays Celimene, who she described as a “colorful, sexy and complicated” woman with whom Alceste falls in love.

“Moliere writes with an incredibly insightful perspective on the difficult tension that women have to navigate between slut and prude,” Baldwin said. “He paints Celimene as a woman who decides to use her sexual power for status, and shows us the consequences.”

Baldwin described being involved in a satirical performance as a challenging balance of truth and ridiculousness, stating that much like ours, the society in this play is outrageous in very similar ways.

She also said that the only actual change made to the text is setting it in modern day, preserving its language along with the original characters’ names.

“We had a fantastic dramaturgy team who did research for the show about the baroque time period, which really informed our interpretation of what it means to have a modern, Gold-Coast-like world for this show that also has a court of the king,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin also talked about other similarities in the modern retelling, which include the timeless ways of humanity, and Moliere’s keen insight.

“I think it so clearly highlights how much Moliere’s society mirrors our own,” Baldwin said. “Regardless of the times, society has the power to corrupt and twist people, and I think the insecurity paired with vanity of something that we see today even more poignantly in social media. It’s a love/hate relationship that has persisted for hundreds of years.”

The Misanthrope will open April 15 and run until April 24 at DePaul’s Fullerton Theatre. Tickets can be purchased on the Theatre School’s website.

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‘The Misanthrope’ to open at The Theatre School