Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Tracy's review of The Second Man
Adapted by Miles Malleson, The Miser concentrates on the household of an infamous old skinflint called Harpagon. Harpagon has decided to take a new wife. Much to the chagrin of his children, the woman Harpagon chooses is same woman his son Cléante wishes to marry. But this impending marriage is not the only piece of news Harpagon relates. He soon reveals that he has arranged marriages for both of his adult children. This is especially troublesome to his daughter Élise, who is secretly engaged to her father's servant Valére.
Olney Theatre has done a superb job of bringing this classic comedy to life. Halo Wines, who was last seen on the OTC stage playing the title role in Driving Miss Daisy, dons her director's hat for this production and it suits her well. The environment Ms. Wines has created is a bit manic. Yet it has an underlying balance that allows the viewer to take in the chaos being displayed and follow it to its logical conclusion.
Wines understands her actors and seems to bring out the best in them. That is especially evident with her Daisy co-star, David Marks, who plays the parsimonious Harpagon. His transformation is so complete that those who are familiar with Mr. Marks' work may not recognize him. His walk, his voice and his gestures all help to define the character, and his interpretation is one which inspires both annoyance and sympathy.
As Harpagon's daughter Élise, Susan Lynsky displays the sauciness that has been so dominate in her past performances. Another strong performance is given by Jon Cohn. As the love struck Cléante, Cohn exhibits youthful charm and exuberance. He is very entertaining to watch.
If Cohn displays the charm of untrained youth, Christopher Yates conveys a worldly attraction as Valére. He is quite the romantic hero and wily seducer. Finally, one cannot fail to mention the excellent performance given by MaryBeth Wise as Mistress Bëte. Quite simply, she is hilarious.
The set by James Kronzer is a wonderful representation of a great house that has been left to fall apart due to neglect. Dan Covey's lighting design is quite lovely and the costume designs by Kathleen Geldard take into account the personalities and situations of each character.
Despite the tightfisted central character, there is no holding back in this production. The Miser is a generous mix of humor and art. The Miser runs through May 18th at the Olney Theatre Center.
The Olney Theatre Center
Cast List (in order of appearance)
Valére: Christopher Yates