Martin Crimp’s update of Moliere’s “The Misanthrope” is set in a modern-day London hotel room where Jennifer, an American movie star, is surrounded by her agent, a former teacher, a journalist, and her current lover, Alceste, the misanthrope of the title. The show deals with very contemporary themes – the cult of celebrity, the ease of dissemination of information in the age of the Internet, and the difference between the private face and the public mask. The play is a satire, originally conceived by Moliere as a way of criticizing the hypocrisy of French aristocratic society. When the play was produced in London in 2009 with Keira Knightley and Damian Lewis, there were already references to the Internet and YouTube. Piccolo Theatre Artistic Director Michael D. Graham has added to this the constant presence of modern technology to reflect the current world.
“It’s rare to have a conversation with someone where they go more than a few minutes without checking their smart phones,” Mr. Graham said. “We are constantly sharing our thoughts, our actions, and our opinions through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. We use modern technology as a portal to transport ourselves to the rest of the world, and to bring that world up-close and into our homes. I’ve brought this obsession onto the stage because of the satirical nature of the play, and I hope audiences will get a chuckle of recognition when they immediately dive for their cell phones as soon as the lights come up for intermission.
“I’ll be interested to see if the sometimes repugnant behavior of these people stirs a modern audience the way it would have riled up Moliere’s contemporaries,” Mr. Graham said. “My hope is that audiences will laugh while still finding the humor bittersweet. Alceste claims to be a man of substance and structure, but even he falters when it comes to loving someone though he loathes her behavior.”
Performances of “The Misanthrope” run Friday-Sunday through April 23 at Piccolo Theatre, 600 Main St. Tickets ($23-$27) and information are available at 847-424-0089 or piccolotheatre.com.