The Miser – Westtown School in West Chester, PA.
October 25, 2015
Review submitted by Molly Harnish of Delaware County Christian School
What is it that you treasure most? Is it love? Money? Family? On Friday, the cast of Westtown School’s The Miser aptly revealed the treasures of several different characters, in part by uprooting them from their home in seventeenth century France and planting them firmly in 1960s Paris, thus adding a new twist to the classic tale of love, money, and what happens when the two meet.
Written by Molière in 1668, The Miser is a satirical comedy in which a miser and his two children repeatedly clash over different forms of treasure. Harpagon, the miser, values his hidden ten thousand crowns more than his own children, and, motivated by financial gain, even plans to marry Marianne, the very girl with whom his son Cléante is in love. Meanwhile, his daughter Élise and servant Valère plan to be married without his knowledge, producing a tangle of seemingly ill-fated partnerships which are nonetheless happily resolved in the end.
Westtown School’s production was anchored by the energy and expressiveness of its cast, whether during the clever “Joke Walls” or during tense confrontations between Harpagon and other characters. From Harpagon to his staff, each cast member contributed to the strong execution of the production.
Several cast members in particular shone like polished gold, most notably Nathan Mullen, who filled the crotchety, paranoid shoes of Harpagon with ease. Another was India Henderson (Élise), whose strong but not overpowering stage presence fit her character well. The continual energy of Dexter Coen Gilbert (Cléante) ensured that there was never a dull moment while he was around, while the expressive movements and words of Lily Cunicelli (Marianne) added comic relief to otherwise tense scenes. Lastly, the not-so-subtle irreverence of Harpagon’s maids (Sally Harpster, Maddie Kreitzberg, and Cleo Kelleher) emphasized Harpagon’s ridiculousness, enhancing the message of the production.
The cast’s Joke Wall, in which several cast members literally popped out of the walls to riff off of each other good-naturedly, added humor to slow moments. Some actors were hard to understand at the beginning, causing a slow start to the play, but by act two, the chemistry onstage had increased dramatically, creating a fitting atmosphere for the play’s happy ending.
The fast-paced and complicated storyline of The Miser can prove difficult to master, but the expressiveness and comedic timing demonstrated by Westtown School’s cast made the show a success.
Review submitted by Gabriella Bloom of Upper Dublin High School
A set in the style of the television show The Laugh-In, costuming in the style of Jackie Kennedy, and musical interludes in the style of a jukebox soundtrack–Westtown School brings Moliere’s The Miser, written in 1668, to life, utilizing the sights and sounds of the 1960s.
Moliere’s classic comedy highlights the hypocrisy that he saw in modern Parisian society. The Miser tells the story of Harpagon, a parsimonious man of older age who cares more for money than his own children. Despite his age, he courts young Marianne, who is also the object of his son Cleante’s affections. Meanwhile, Harpagon’s daughter, Elise, is devoted to Valere, but Harpagon insists that she marry otherwise. Several characters influence these principle few by encouraging them to deceive others for their own personal interest. In the end, the audience finds that nearly all of the leading characters are related to one another, which resolves the conflict.
Westtown School’s inventive production of this play featured excellent set and costuming. The cast made full use of their set, which included era-specific furniture, bright patterns, and most notably, windows at varying heights. The costumes were not only related to the 1960s style of dress, but they also assisted in storytelling. For instance, both Elise and Valere were dressed in yellow, and Marianne and Cleante in blue.
Further, Nathan Mullen, who played Harpagon, had outstanding vocal work and committed physicality. He convincingly portrayed a man of older age, with a slight accent, without exaggerating the character. His monologue during Act IV was a highlight of the show.
In addition, the production showcased a strong ensemble, which was just as involved in storytelling as the leads. The ensemble was able to catch the audience’s attention throughout the play with their comedic interludes. Hilarious one-liners and enjoyable lip-synching to French music in between scenes contributed to the production’s originality.
The technical elements of the show reflected the 1960s setting and communicated the era to the audience. However, there were some issues with sound. The lack of microphones in a medium-sized space made it difficult for the audience to hear some of the actors’ lines. Still, some characters had better projection and enunciation than others, particularly Harpagon, Marianne, and La Fleche, played by Nathan Mullen, Lily Cunicelli, and Brooke Tyborowski, respectively.
In all, Westtown School’s production of The Miser was original and inventive, and brought timeless themes into a more modern setting.