Review of The Miser
Directed by Kim Bromley
For schedule (free admission):
Old Mill Park Amphitheatre
Mill Valley, CA
The Curtain Theatre
RUN: August 19 – September 10, 2017
RATING: 5 of 5 stars
(August 20, 2017)
The Curtain Theatre transforms a picturesque redwood grove in Mill Valley’s Old Mill Park into an enticing outdoor amphitheatre, with delicately painted sets by Steve Coleman, creating the ambiance of a 17th Century French parlor.
Director Kim Bromley’s broad comedic brushstrokes exaggerate foibles of characters—Cléante is obsessed with his own appearance, covered in golden ribbons and lace, Valère manipulates to any length forwarding his goals, and Harpagon, otherwise known as the miser, ignores his children to protect material wealth instead. This satirical examination of society was one of Molière’s later plays, and wildly popular at its premiere in 1668, quickly spreading to the rest of Europe.
Harpagon, a tightfisted elderly gentleman, wishes his children to marry for wealth. Under his watchful eye, both have fallen in love with penniless suitors, and are secretly hoping to marry without his consent. After a series of mistaken identities and hidden truths come to light, all is well in a suitably chaotic deux ex machina denouement, in the style of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline.
Live music drifts across the stage in romantic waltzes and well-timed pratfalls, lead by Don Clark. Isabelle Grimm as coquettish Élise minces through her formidable amount of dialogue beside Steve Beecroft’s calculating Valère. Their melodramatic love affair is charming and amusing in its awkward scenes behind her father’s back, attempting to escape his wrath.
Embodying an overtly emotional, plumed nobleman is Nick Moore as Cléante, a young actor who is studying at College of Marin. He boldly interacts with the audience, pleading for money, and succumbing to a faint spell in their midst after discovering his beloved Marianne is claimed by another.
Krystina Morrill’s feisty Marianne does not appear until after intermission, and she is far from the submissive innocent that is expected. Women in this play are confident, willing to take matters into their own hands, and adept at maneuvering situations to their advantage.
In its earliest run, Molière himself portrayed the title character, and added Harpagon’s hacking coughs to cover his own illness. Grey Wolf’s miser is a lecherous, greedy villain whose hobbling gait and cantankerous insults plague the servants of his household and send his children running. Nelson Brown as the sharp tongued valet La Flèche stands up to him, saving the day.
The Miser can be enjoyed on weekends and Labor Day Monday at 2:00 p.m. in the relaxing shade of Old Mill Park below the library. Admission is free, although donations are encouraged; arrive early to take advantage of their preset chairs, or bring a blanket to sit on the hillside.