“Where are the great men of the Renaissance?/We spend our days discussing restaurants!/ Our daughters dress like whores, our sons are rude/These kids can’t scratch their own initials, dude!”
The time is 1666, and you are sitting in a Paris salon among corseted women and foppish dandies. However, as indicated by the lines above, you are not listening to dialogues in standard 17th-century verse. The humor is undoubtedly right here, right now in Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club’s “School of Lies,” a new play that will open at the Loeb Experimental Theater and run from Dec. 5 to Dec. 13.
Based on a modern rewriting by David Ives of Molière’s “The Misanthrope” the production is a satirical romp of French aristocrats who engage in preposterous battles of the wits as they try to win the heart of beautiful Celimène. This flirtatious widow is the best verbal acrobat of all until the misanthropic Frank—a young French man who resists the bootlicking attitude of the others by devoting himself to brutal candor—comes along and flips her world upside-down.
“The plot and characters are definitely from Molière, but the satire is now tackling 21st-century problems,” says Sara K. Rosenburg ’16, who plays Arsinoé, Celimène’s antagonist.
As director Archie I.H. Stonehill ’17 sees it, the play also contains more timeless ideas: “The hypocrisy [of] social interactions was a major theme in Molière’s time, and I’d say it is still very relevant today.”
Despite incorporating terms from the modern internet and texting lexicon, the production has preserved Molière’s rhythmic verses and rhyming couplets. “Much of the play’s humor comes from the anachronisms thrown in the text,” stage manager Victor J. Kamenker ’17 says. “Where else does one find words like ‘dude’ and ‘LOL’ in complete verse?”
Besides the carefully crafted verbal comedy, the production promises other forms of fun that will be sure to entertain a 21st-century audience. “There’s some intellectual humor for sure, but there’s also some great gross and raunchy bits.” Rosenburg says.
Scatological and sexual humor aside, there’ll always be the age-old crowd pleaser of slapstick. “Much of my job as a stage manager of this play has been keeping people on their toes with the rhyme and meter to make the jokes and innuendos as enjoyable as possible,” Kamenker says. “But there’s also some visual comedy that just cracks me up every time.”
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