A Moliere classic in a new setting, a long-running off-Broadway musical, an evening of do-it-yourself sleuthing and a historical community musical are new on the calendar this week for Wasatch Front theatergoers.
- DIRECTOR RUSS LEES' previous experience with Moliere was directing "The Miser" in French in the Lab Theatre at the University of Utah.This week, Utahns can see his latest Moliere effort: Theatre-Works West's production of "The Misanthrope" . . . in English.
What Shakespeare is to the British, Moliere is to the French - but it wasn't always thus. Born in 1622 and deciding (probably against his father's wishes) to embark on a career in the theater, things were pretty rocky for Moliere for the first 10 or 15 years.
Then he hit his stride - writing sophisticated comedies that incensed the church and provoked public outcry (which, of course, only led to larger and more curious audiences).
"The Misanthrope," written between 1665-66, was almost instantly regarded as a drawing room comedy masterpiece, with Moliere himself (as was frequently the case) playing the lead role - in this case, Alceste, a fool with high principles and rigid standards, storming moodily about in search of "honest" men to agree with him.
Lees, who has returned to his hometown of Salt Lake City after spending three years in Boston, where he earned a degree in playwriting from Boston University, is directing Richard Wilbur's translation of the Moliere comedy.
"It's a very traditional translation - and a very good one," says Lees, who is setting the action in modern-day Hollywood. "This period works perfectly, with people being catty about one another and having a `facade,' and it's also about people suing each other for no good reason."
Like "Tartuffe" and some of Moliere's other works, "The Misanthrope" is told in rhyming couplets.
"So much modern theater spends too much energy trying to recreate the way people talk," noted Lees, "it's refreshing to do something different."
Lees' cast includes Dylan McCullough as Alceste; Gary Winterholler as Philinte, M. Anne Delong as Celimene, Cris Paulsen as Oronte, Saren Nofs-Snyder as Eliante, Maribeth Thueson as Arsinoe, Len Childers as Acaste, Brad Henrie as Clitandre and Robert Snedeker as Dubois.
In the updated Hollywood setting (only the backdrop has been changed - not the language), Celimene is portrayed as a popular starlet holding court with in-crowd admirers and her would-be lover. Meanwhile, Alceste, the misanthrope, is fed up with the entire social circle.
Moliere is a little more difficult to update than Shakespeare, notes Lees.
"His plays are tightly plotted and self-contained and every element flows in a very specific sort of way."
During his three years in Boston, Lees was taught by and worked with Nobel Prize-winner Derek Walcott, who hired Lees as a resident director for his little theater in Boston.
Walcott is probably best known for his full-length poem, "Omeros," which sets the story of Homer in the Carribean. Lees assisted in the development of Walcott's theater and directed an Equity production of "The Silver Coast," a new comedy about silent movies.
Also in recent months, Lees produced, wrote and performed the commentary track for the new laser disc release of Sir Laurence Olivier's "Richard III" and provided the commentary on the soon-to-be released laser disc of Orson Welles' "Othello," both being released by the Voyager Co.
Performances will be in the Jay W. Lees Courage Theatre of the Jewett Center for the Performing Arts, 1250 E. 1700 South (lower part of the Westminster College campus).
Playdates are Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m., Sept. 1-17. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students (with valid ID) and senior citizens. For reservations, call 583-6520.
- "THE FANTASTICKS," the longest-running musical in Broadway history, will be staged Sept. 2-24 at the Heritage Theatre, 2505 S. Highway 89, in Perry (south of Brigham City).
Directed by Richard M. Dabel, performances will be Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. For reservations, call 723-8392.
- MORE MYSTERY ON THE MOOR, a gothic murder mystery comedy written and directed by Utah actress Laura Bedore, will play once more Friday, Sept. 2, at Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
The dinner audience will take a trip back to the moors of Victorian England where Maxwell DeWintergreen (Monte Lyon), lord of Reilbahd Manor, is about to announce his engagement to the lovely Emily Ingenue (Julie Chipman), the manor's governess. But is the wolf out on the moor howling for Rebecca, the late lady of the manor? Maybe the housekeeper, Inga Glous Strychnine (Kera Hill), is causing the poor predator to moan?
Hunt Mystery & Company cast members also include Vic Groves, Sue Jarrard, Cindy Potts and Gary Thompson.
The doors open at 7 p.m., with the dinner and mystery at 7:30 p.m. The cost is $25 per person. Call 521-6040, Ext. 4080, for reservations.
- "PAYSONIA 4," a musical journey through the "four" years of Payson's history (1894, 1904, 1914, 1924 and so forth, one decade at a time, up to 1994), will be presented Sept. 1-3 and 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Peteetneet Academy building.
Writer-producer Duane Hiatt, whose wife, Sharon, and as many of their 15 children, spouses and grandchildren "as we can round up and keep track of" will present vignettes of the community's history in comedy, narration and song.
Hiatt, a member of the popular Three Ds during the 1960s and '70s, said last year's "Paysonia" production was such great fun that the community's Onion Days officials requested another edition.
This year's production will focus on years ending in "4" . . . everything from widening of the cemetery road in 1894 (a project that required reshifting several dearly departed), the dramatic pitchoff between Horse Sense Harry and Clanger Banger Kelly following the resurfacing of the Memorial Park horse shoe pits in 1954, and the adventures of carpooling to Geneva Steel in 1944.
Patrons are urged to bring their own pillows (seating is on the stairs - just like the kids used to do in the old grade school). Tickets are $3 each, available at the door.
Compiled by Ivan M. Lincoln, Deseret News theater editor, 237-2150. Fax: 237-2121. Information on stage productions or auditions must be submitted at least two weeks in advance.