Molière takes on the sixties

Audiences are used to seeing Molière’s The Misanthrope presented like the renaissance-era play it is; however, Theatre Junction’s current production is set in the swinging ’60s. Sound a little far fetched? Not according to Daniel Arnold, who plays the roles of Basque and Dubois in this masterpiece by one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries.

"You’re dealing with a decadent time back there," he explains. "So we put this into a very decadent time these days, where we’ve got the 20s-ish crowd clubbing, basically, in this decadent era where they can afford booze… coke, [and] hot tubs in their living-room. [It’s] almost like a Studio 54-type atmosphere, so it’s related very well and the language just sort of flows along with it."

Perhaps even more exciting for the recent U of A BFA graduate is the new ensemble concept in place at Theatre Junction. Instead of casting different actors for each play, the theatre hired an ensemble of nine actors–six men and three women–who will perform every play this season.

Mark Lawes, director/artistic director and founder of the theatre, long anticipated this new format. He’s had this in mind since he started the company nine years ago, according to Arnold. The ensemble is quite popular in European theatre, and Theatre Junction is the first to bring it to Calgary.

The major advantage of the ensemble is trust from the actor’s point of view. He said trust increases the comfort level of the actors, both with each other and with their roles. He feels the quality of the performance is far better for it.

The modernization of the play, despite the use of verse and rhyming couplets, has not really been an obstacle for the group. Molière had a very human writing style and so his plays, like those of Shakespeare, have a universal appeal that bridges all time periods.

Arnold is clearly enamoured with the material.

"It’s not fluff, and yet it’s funny; it’s a comedy, but… it makes me cry." He also emphasizes the balance between humour and seriousness. "There are real moments between two lovers that we go ‘Fuck! I know that! I’ve lived that, that’s hilarious!’ And then the next moment is sad and tragic."

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