“… To make it clear,
I wish to be preferred, you see
the friend of all mankind
is not a friend to me …”
So declares Alceste, a self-proclaimed “honest man” about his love-interest, the confounding and coquettish Célimène — proving not only that opposites do attract, but the action of the attraction is also satisfaction!
Alceste is the main character, played wordily by actor Michael Weaver, of the “comedy of manners” opening at ARTworks on Thursday, Nov. 8. In this comedy of manners, the actors will
speak in verse and move like they’re attending their most formal king, yet at the same the play has been craftily updated by none other than Beaufortonian Daniel H. Daniels. He translated this classical and influential play, and in response to this paramount creative endeavor, director JW Rone decided to produce it.
Why would Daniels do such a thing? After he retired, he decided to study French, which he had “missed” in his career in the foreign service. Spending the summer in France, he saw the play “Les Femmes Savantes” by Moliere.
“I had the printed text with me while watching,” Daniels reminisced, “and I decided on the train home to see what it would look like in English verse. Before you knew it, I translated nine plays.”
Not just any plays — Moliere wrote in the 17th Century, in rhyming verse, about social climbers, gold diggers, hypocrites, scoundrels and quack-doctors.
“I kept the formality of the rhyming couplets. Rhymes add to the humor, you can sense the word before the sentence is completed,” Daniels explained. He had to update some of the jokes, but only to elicit the same reaction from the audience.
Director JW Rone is framing the formal language with modern dress and technology — as the characters pirouette through conversations, they will also be Tweeting, in our current mode of socializing.
“Moliere smacks of school and erudition,” Daniels said, “but he wrote for all, the common people and the kings, all levels saw humor, and that’s what proves his genius.”