By Karen Nguyen
KC Molière: 400 in 2022 is a huge celebration for the 400th birthday of the genius of comedy, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, also known as Molière. Molière lived from January 15, 1622, to February 17, 1673. As part of this ongoing celebration, I attended the Mobile Molière show presented by the MFA students at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. The show was called, “The Long Path Players” featuring various scenes from several of Molière plays. The stage was set up in a unique way with two scenic drapes hanging on a frame for the background along with several racks of costumes; there was no backstage. All the costume changes and props were on stage with the actors. There were 5 cast members that interchanged between the characters.
The first play was Tartuffe. The scene in Tartuffe featured Mariane trying to get with Valère, and Dorine is in the middle of that. The second scene was from the play The Misanthrope (The Miser) and was hilarious. It helped me connect the play with what I learned in class. The scene featured Harpagon and La Flèche, his servant, who finds out that Harpagon does have money and tries to get it from him. It teaches the audience about greed and selfishness. The last three scenes were taken from The Flying Doctor, Scapin, The Imaginary Invalid. The Flying Doctor was my favorite of these plays, because the humor was so simple, but effective. The actor did not have a physical prop for a tower but acted like he was climbing one and walking up and down the stairs.
The costumes were vibrant and showcased what people wore during this era. Molière wore a wig and there was a variety of accessories to go with the characters, such as vests, glasses, tights, and handkerchiefs. I noticed that some of the women were playing male characters. I thought that this aspect brought more humor to the play and showed the audience that it is possible for women to play male characters. There were few times during the show when I was not laughing; indeed, I was consistently laughing. The facial expressions of the actors were phenomenal. This show was outstanding and was a true testament to the works of Molière and the versatility of the actors who played the various parts.
What I admired about the actors was when they messed up or something unexpected happened, they kept going. The second time I went to see this show, while turning the background scene around on the dress hanger to switch scenes, one of the tubes of the frame holding the background fell out of place, so the whole structure began to fall apart. Fortunately, the actors kept singing and staying in character and successfully put the structure back together. Overall, the MFA students did an outstanding job performing their characters and bringing Molière’s work to life.