A Modern Look at The Misanthrope

Brennan MacGreggor and Afton Rentz in The Misanthrope. Photo credit: RADGRANDPA Photography

Brennan MacGreggor and Afton Rentz in The Misanthrope. Photo credit: RADGRANDPA Photography

How do you take a 17th century play and make it relevant to a 21st century audience? According to Director Janine Waddell Hodder – have an updated script, a great cast, and let your cast and crew run with the production!

Janine says, “there were a lot of times in rehearsal where I got to say, ‘can you do that again, but 50% less?’ which you never get to say, but this cast is a bunch of risk takers. It’s been incredibly entertaining to watch them figure things out.”

The Walterdale Playhouse is staging Martin Crimp’s 1996 take on Molière’s The Misanthrope, from December 5 – 15 (students – get in for free during the student night, December 3).

The Misanthrope is the story of a man – Alceste – who generally doesn’t like society, but is forced to be a part of it in hopes to attain the love of an up-and-coming movie star – Jennifer. Brennan MacGregor, who plays the role of Alceste, says, “a lot of what [Alceste] says are things that resonate with me personally. I like that he wants to keep people accountable. I think the root of who he is, he really wants people to be the best they possibly can be. What upsets him is that they let themselves down by taking easy routes… How he goes about doing that though, lands him in a whole bunch of predicaments that you see throughout the play.”

According to both Brennan and Janine, The Misanthrope is still highly thought-provoking today. Brennan says, “what Molière is doing is he’s challenging you to think about what is true and how far you’re willing to go with that. In terms of Alceste, he wants to go all the way. He’s not entirely certain how to do it, but he’s doing his best to get there.”

As with any play worth its salt, The Misanthrope will get audiences thinking. Janine notes, “I went through a lot of self-reflection about Alceste and how he behaves, but even more so about John [Alceste’s best friend, played by Zachary Parsons-Lozinski] and how he handles conflict. So, I think if audiences can come away thinking ‘well, I’m more like John, but I’ve got a hint of Alceste in me, that’s kind of a fun little game that I played with myself. John is more of what most people would call ‘polite’ or ‘normal’ but that doesn’t necessarily make him more moral, or honest, or kind. Those were the big three questions for me. How do these characters handle morality, how do they handle honesty, and how do they handle kindness?”

And if you’re like me, and have seen The Misanthrope before but not necessarily understood it, that’s okay – come anyways. Janine says this interpretation of it is much more “on its feet… It’ll be interesting to see what Molière fans think… they might be kind of surprised.”

The Misanthrope plays at the Walterdale Playhouse from December 5 – 15. Student night (free for students) is Monday, December 3. Thursday, December 6, is 2-for-1 at the door. Tickets are $12 – $18.

– Jenna Marynowski

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