Molière's brilliant comedy about the hypocrisies of the 17th century French aristocracy is transplanted to a gay society in Mauckingbird Theatre Company's production. This modern spin on the classic debate between etiquette and earnestness features Dito van Reigersberg (Pig Iron Theatre Company, Martha Graham Cracker) as Alceste.
Alienated from society by its insincerities, the misanthropic Alceste rails against the disingenuous conduct of the men who surround him. Yet he pursues the seemingly most shallow of all: the narcissistic "pretty-boy" Célimène, played by Evan Jonigkeit, whose recent stage credits include Six Characters in Search of an Author at People's Light & Theatre, Dishwashers at Walnut Street Theatre, and Fox TV's Twice a Hero. When Célimène's deceitful nature is revealed, Alceste's excessive virtue is challenged and Molière makes his strongest argument against a world of fashionable false pretenses.
Maukingbird's production of The Misanthrope is translated into English verse by Ranjit Bolt, whose translation has been staged by Sir Peter Hall and at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. The fast-paced dialogue builds tension with every insult of the rich and powerful, and the traditional renaissance court is reimagined as a new world, one populated and controlled by gay men.
"Our aim is to illuminate Moliere's text in a new way by transporting the artifice inherent in the French court to an equally pretentious world where gay men call all the shots," says director Reynolds.
The Misanthrope cast is led by Dito van Reigersberg as Alceste. Van Reigersberg is a founding member of Pig Iron Theatre Company and has also made a name for himself over the past several years performing as his drag alter-ego, Miss Martha Graham-Cracker. He has also performed with several Philadelphia companies, including Arden Theatre Company, Mum Puppettheatre, Lantern Theater Company, Headlong Dance Theater, and the Opera Company of Philadelphia. Van Reigersberg studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse, the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, and is a graduate of Swarthmore College.