The Misanthrope – Paradox on stage

By: Christi Rutledge

The Misanthrope is nothing short of theatrical luxury. A stellar cast, some of the most beautiful set designs and costumes I have ever seen and rich language dripping with wit make the Festival’s production an absolute treat. What I love about this year’s production is that it’s about extremes: extreme hypocrisy, extreme honesty and extreme decadence. If you haven’t yet seen this classic comedy of manners, come for one of its last three performances on the Festival stage!

The incomparable Ben Carlson assumes the role of Alceste, the curmudgeonly social critic. Alceste cannot help but adore Célimène (played by Sara Topham), who is the essence of everything he detests. That is to say, she’s a terrible gossip and a flirt who relishes making her suitors laugh at the expense of their acquaintances. Alceste is determined to change his beloved’s ways – but can he succeed?

If you haven’t seen this production yet, or read the play, stop reading here (unless you’re prepared for a spoiler)! The ending is perhaps what sets The Misanthrope apart: instead of the more traditional conclusion of a marriage between the protagonists, Molière leaves his viewers with a sobering wake-up call after what feels like a great night of partying.

The production doesn’t end in a compromise; the tension between honesty and pretense remains strong right up to Alceste’s last speech.  Molière leaves us in a strange state of limbo: we are left to decide for ourselves who is in the right – if anyone. As an audience, we find it hard to know just who to side with.

What were you left feeling at the end of this production?  Let us know!

Here’s a taste of what you thought of The Misanthrope




4 thoughts on “The Misanthrope – Paradox on stage

  1. I very much enjoyed this production, and the extravagantly gorgeous set on which it was presented! Besides the already noted Carlson and Topham who I think sparkled as much as anything on the set, I wish to note Kelli Fox’s deliciously self-righteous Arsinoe, Brian Tree’s hilarious if brief Dubois, and,in particular, Juan Chioran’s Philinte–at once a companion to the protagonist and an engaging character in his own right.

    • Hi Kara- thanks for sharing your thoughts and putting into words a bit more about the fabulous cast that made this exquisite performance possible. I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed this production just as much as I did!

  2. The treatment of the ending was very powerful. The long silences lifted the final scene to the realm of great tragedy. It was Alceste’s tragedy, and I was very moved by the strength of his final declaration that he would withdraw from the world. I was also in no doubt that he would do it. When I looked at the script afterwards, I could see how easy it would be to make this whole final scene border on farcical, so that Alceste’s final moments would seem like a petulant child, slamming the door because he didn’t get his way. Kudos to director David Grindley and to Carlson and Topham for seeing, and carrying through, a quite different and much more effective conclusion to the play. One of the most memorable moments and most memorable performances in my over 40 years of attending Stratford!

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