Hilltop Players wow with big wigs and small set in “The Misanthrope”

6 years ago Triangle 0

By Katherine Carpenter
Staff Writer

On Halloween night, most people were either trick-or-treating in the rain or curled up watching “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” I was sitting in Rudd Auditorium waiting for the lights to go down.

Moliére’s “The Misanthrope” is a satire about the hypocritical attitude of 17th century French aristocracy. The play is centered around two characters: Alceste and his lover Célimène. Both characters are extremely critical and judgmental. In all other respects they are complete opposites. Alceste detests social gatherings while Célimène lives for them. Alceste is extremely reserved in his affections while Célimène is an unabashed flirt. Célimène is witty and charming; the public dotes on her.  Alceste is seen as a crotchety, critical misanthrope.

Bryan’s Hilltop Players’ rendition of the play featured a simple set that was not distracting from the plotline, yet was detailed enough to make the setting convincing. The clean lines and minimalistic background served as assets to the small-scale production. The play took place primarily within Célimène’s home, with several characters floating in and out of the drawing room throughout the performance.

Because the entire play took place in one room, scenes changed purely through exits and entrances. The double doors in the very center of the stage made this facet of the production both simple and striking. Entrances were marked and unmistakable. When the comedic nobleman Oronte entered, his pompous arrival was contrived and entertaining. Yet, the entrances that were meant to be understated and limited in theatrics achieved their goal. The arrival of the soft-spoken maidservant went unnoticed; I didn’t even know she was in the room until she spoke.

What I was extremely impressed by was the costumes. Seventeenth century French aristocracy is no small feat in the world of theater costuming. Gigantic wigs and huge bustles were a mainstay of the era. Lapels and ruffles and lace, oh my! Junior Costumer Rachel Lieber and her freshman assistant Emily Grace Maine did an admirable job with such a daunting task. Each costume was well-fitted to its performer and suitable to the era.

The actors were thoroughly convincing in their roles. Senior Caleb Julin took special care to be compelling in the role of Alceste. He was highly entertaining and convincingly crotchety. Junior Grace Loe somehow managed to be both charming and highly annoying in her role as Célimène. In some scenes, I wondered how Alceste could feel anything but loathing for her. In others, I was perhaps more in love with her than Alceste himself.

The play’s greatest asset was the chemistry between the performers. Alceste and Philinte, portrayed by junior Nathan Reiher, played comfortably off each other as real friends do, and Célimène and her friend Arsinoé viciously traded insults before Célimène foisted her off onto Alceste, much to his chagrin. Arsinoé was jealously in love with him and extremely forward. Junior Shelbi Metts’ Arsinoé is cringingly brazen, and I could not help but feel for Alceste as he tried valiantly to fend off her advances.

Altogether, “The Misanthrope” was a resounding success. The set was simple and realistic and the performers were compelling. Liebert assisted Bernie Belisle, assistant professor of fine and performing arts, in providing apt direction. Quick dialogue, witty repartee and comedic response were well-handled by a dedicated and adept cast. They all meshed well and had evidently put great work into their art. After all, working around wigs that large is no small task.