Marquee a classic act
by Lucia Mauro
Thursday, February 1, 1996
Molière abhored hypocracy. So does Geoffrey Edwards , artistic director of the Marquee Theatre Company, as he sets out to present classics in their purest form, unencumbered by avant-garde trappings or far-fetched reinterpretations.
The two-year-old Evanston-based troupe is presenting "The Misanthrope," adapted from Molière by Richard Wilbur, weekends through Friday in Evanston and Glencoe.
"We're a professional company dedicated to presenting classic works, as well as popular plays that have come to be regarded not as capital C classics, but classics nonetheless," said Edwards. "I believe the classics offer an endless mine of imaginative possibilities."
Past stagings have included "Arsenic and Old Lace" and "Antony and Cleopatra." Future programs are "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "South Pacific" and "As You Like It."
The dating game
Because of the play's sophistication and high society polish, Edwards is dressing "The Misanthrope" cast in present-day formal attire, rather than the usual 18th century powder-and-snuff costuming.
But don't call it a modern-dress version. Edwards prefers to keep a piece rooted in its proper historical context.
His decision to present a contemporary-looking show was motivated more by the flexibility of Wilbur's translation and a desire to present a sleek, stirring visual picture than any sort of ego-driven plan to put his own personal stamp on Molière or parallel the text with modern society.
"I always enjoy discovering new ideas and messages within a script," said Edwards. "But in this process of rediscovery, I don't believe I have to set a work on Mars to somehow make it more poignant: all one has to do is go back to the play, and it will endlessly reveal itself."
In "The Misanthrope," a masterpiece of wit and innuendo in verse couplets, the title character, Alceste, engages in a verbal battle with his amour, Célimène, as an eclectic parade of fops and marquises flit in and out of an 18th century Parisian salon.
The director's father, Ryan Edwards, a former Metropolitan Opera baritone, who plays the title role, views Alceste sympathetically.
"I believe Alceste is a romantic who really loves Célimène (played by Rachel Martindale in the Marquee production) and sees better things for her than the time she wastes being duped by her shallow acquaintences," he said. "A lovable curmudgeon, Alceste would truly like to see people be sincere, kind and trustworthy."
To an extent, Geoffrey Edwards would like to see Alceste's philosophy applied to the theater.
"The accessibility of great works has nothing to do with dress or setting," he said. "The human essence makes them accessible."
©1996 Pioneer Press
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