It’s easy to see why certain plays stand the test of time, and come across as fresh and packed with vitality as they must have centuries ago.
That’s the case with Red Deer College’s School of Creative Arts’ current production of Moliere’s The School for Husbands/The School for Wives. Directed with absolute joy and precision by Alice Nelson, the show runs through to April 14th in Studio A.
Curtain is 7:30 p.m. with a weekend matinee on April 14th at 1 p.m.
Intent on instructing the perfect wives, suitors Sganarelle (Jared Baker) and Arnolphe (Jayden Baldry) each approach the situation differently, but with similar results.
Both men are bent on capturing particular women – Sganarelle is after Isabelle (Aimbree Lauren) in The School for Husbands and Arnolphe has his eye on Agnes (Kai Hall) in The School for Wives.
Happily, both men are supremely outwitted – and the clever twists and turns the plots take in both plays are absolutely entertaining from the start – thanks of course, as mentioned, to Moliere’s striking imagination but also to this very talented cast.
Baker is fantastic as the cranky, scheming Sganarelle as is Baldry as the smarmy Arnolphe.
Both actors are constantly ‘on’ every single minute they are onstage, which is pretty much the entire duration of each show.
They are fun, engaging and charismatic; as are Ben Garneau as Valere and Arland Clements as Horace – who are also vying for Isabelle’s and Agnes’s affections respectively.
Adding lots of fun moments as well are Cameron Freitas and Shelby Sweetgrass as Alain and Georgette – zany attendants to Arnolphe in The School for Wives.
But it’s the ladies who are really the masters at turning the tables on these guys who are so very determined to marry them. Lauren does a terrific turn as the vivacious, sparkling Isabelle – always one step – no, make that a few steps – ahead of the too-smart-for-his-own-good Sganarelle.
And the sweet-natured Agnes, who greasy Arnolphe is drawn to because of her ‘simplicity’, perhaps isn’t so simple and naive after all.
Calgary-based director Nelson said exploring the layers of meaning and humour in the play has been a delight.
She has clearly poured so much into crafting the details of the production, as has the gifted artistic team of Hanne Loosen who designed the perfect, versatile set for all the rapid-paced goings-on.
Donna Jopp’s costumes fit so well with the feel of the stories and Jessie Paynter’s lighting design nicely enhances the action subtly but extremely effectively as well.
Nelson’s stamp, however, is seen all over both plays.
With her extensive experience as a director and theatre educator, audiences can also see unmistakable glimmers of her influence on the cast from her work as a fabulous puppeteer, improviser and teacher of the art of clowning as well.
Both plays are certainly brimming with humour and well-timed physical comedy – both of which showcase the actors’ sets of flourishing skills that much more.
Nelson said in an earlier interview that several adaptations have been created of Moliere’s enduring work, which was first performed in a far lengthier version in Paris in 1661.
It’s truly amazing how these stories hold up so well today.
Nelson described them as being something like sitcoms – but they have been designed and penned with such a polished style – even an elegance in terms of the flow of the scripts – that there really is nothing about them that feels even remotely dated.
Plus, these women are in effect calling out these men who are trying in vain to manipulate and mistreat them – similar to what’s been going on of late in society today.
It’s all told in humour of course, but there is depth and richness there as well. It just goes to show that there is always room for clever, well-written stories that tap into universal themes. Congratulations to all involved in these witty, thoroughly engaging shows.
For ticket information, check out www.blackknightinn.ca.