Gossip, intrigue cause drama in any century

Front_RowWhether it's political intrigue or damaging gossip, mankind has changed little over the centuries. On the stage, Moliere's gossiping characters differ little from today's texting and social media rumor-mongers, and even in the Middle Ages court of King Henry II, politicians had alternate versions of the facts before the age of press secretaries and sound bites. DEARBORN ACTORS IN PLYMOUTH PRODUCTION OF ‘THE MISANTHROPE’ Gossip – whether spread by whispers and poison pen letters, or the electronic grapevine of social media – hurts whenever it occurs, and time has not blunted its sharp sting. Barefoot Productions' presentation of Moliere's “The Misanthrope,” translated by Richard Wilbur, and set in a 17th century French court, shows people have changed little over the centuries, and will lie to gain the social status they crave.
Photo courtesy of Barefoot Productions Moliere's “The Misanthrope,” a farce about miscommunication, translates well into an era of text messaging and social media, as shown with Barefoot Productions cast members Kristen Campbell (left) of Canton Township as Eliante; Mark Ripper of Northville Township as Alceste; Brian Townsend of Dearborn as Acaste; Valerie Mangrum Haas of Inkster as Arsinoe; and Paul Vandervert of Dearborn as Orante.

Photo courtesy of Barefoot Productions
Moliere's “The Misanthrope,” a farce about miscommunication, translates well into an era of text messaging and social media, as shown with Barefoot Productions cast members Kristen Campbell (left) of Canton Township as Eliante; Mark Ripper of Northville Township as Alceste; Brian Townsend of Dearborn as Acaste; Valerie Mangrum Haas of Inkster as Arsinoe; and Paul Vandervert of Dearborn as Orante.

Alceste is angered and discouraged by the false flattery and calculated lies of his social circle, and vows to speak only the truth, no matter how much his words might upset others. His philosophic friend Philante urges caution, but Alceste is tired of saying one thing to a person's face and another behind his back. However, a young widow, Celimene, with whom Alceste is enamored, embodies all of the vices he claims to detest. The tables are turned when he discovers she has ridiculed him in her letters, and he is the victim of the honesty he claims to seek. Director Kirk Haas of Inkster said the “white lie” of daily communication is a valuable tool, as unfiltered truth can cause irreversible damage. “Friendships lost and enemies made are the results of miscommunications that could have been avoided with a simple bending of the truth,” he said. “Our play is about two lovers, one insisting on telling the truth and the other incapable of doing so.” Haas said incorporating modern social media into a story about rudeness and the damage of misunderstood communications adds relevance to the production. “Moliere is an astute observer of human behavior,” he said. “Through his plays he makes us look at ourselves and the foolishness of our own actions. His ability to go from farce to poignant seriousness in a single scene is a gift.” The leads include Mark Ripper of Northville Township as Alceste, with Jessica Koloian of Plymouth as the widow Celimene and JoAnna Platzer of Livonia as Philinte. Dearborn residents in the show include Brian Townsend as Acaste and Paul Vandervert as Orante. Others in the cast include Kristen Campbell as Eliante and Richard Pientak as Dubois, both of Canton Township; Valerie Mangrum Haas of Inkster as Arsinoe; Samantha Anne Mumaw of Plymouth as Basque; and Patrick Yee of Royal Oak as Clintandre. The show runs at 8 p.m. Feb. 17, 18, 24 and 25 and 2 p.m. Feb. 19 and 26 at Barefoot Productions, 240 N. Main St., Plymouth. Tickets are $15. To order, or for more information, call 734-404-6886 or go to justgobarefoot.com. PLAYERS GUILD ANNOUNCES ‘THE LION IN WINTER’ CAST The Players Guild of Dearborn recently announced the cast of “The Lion in Winter,” a play that portrays politicians purveying “alternative facts” centuries before spin doctors and media feeds shot altered reality worldwide at the speed of light. Set in the court of Henry II, King of England, during Christmas 1183, the story follows the political maneuvering and machinations of his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, their three sons – Richard the Lionheart, Geoffrey and John – and Princess Alais Capet and King Philip II of France. Rae McIntosh, who plays Eleanor of Aquitaine, said she loves the language of the role, and the character is one she has always wanted to play. “It's a challenge to portray her large range of feelings and expressions, especially as she frequently alters them from one line to the next,” she said. “As to the relationship to today's political climate, I reference one line that Eleanor has – 'Which fact? We have so many.'” Director Mark Nathanson said the wit, drama and intrigue of the story drew him to it, and while the situation is historically epic, the action unfolds among a dysfunctional family that is fun to watch. “I call it ‘intimate grandeur,' with the set, lights and other tech suggesting the grandeur of the situation,” he said. “But actors are focusing on the intimate nature of their characters. These are real people with feelings (for which) the audience will have sympathy.” Nathanson said the ascension of kings followed different paths, with Henry II becoming king to end a bloody civil war, and Philip becoming king through “divine right.” “How we pick our leaders, and do leaders serve us, or do we serve leaders is relevant today,” he said. Bill McCloskey plays Henry II, with Aric Liljegren as Richard the Lionheart, Andrew St. John as Geoffrey, Nathaniel Booth as John, Kori Bielaniec as Princess Alais and Michael Micheletti as King Philip II of France. The show runs at 8 p.m. March 10, 11, 17, 18, 24 and 25, and 2:30 p.m. March 12, 19 and 26 at the theater, 21730 Madison, Dearborn. Tickets are $18. To order, or for more information, call 313-561-TKTS or go to playersguildofdearborn.org.