Molière’s comic genius shines in this production by Venice Little Theatre’s Stage II.
By Kay Kipling
What a pleasure it can be, now and then, to see a play by Molière, and to be reminded of how his satiric genius remains so sharp over the centuries. Case in point: Venice Little Theatre’s Stage II production of The School for Wives, one of the Frenchman’s most successful plays and still a fun and occasionally touching romp.
The piece centers on Arnolphe (Ronald Krine Myroup), a middle-aged man about to take a bride for the first time. Since he’s obsessed with fear of cuckoldry, Arnolphe has (cleverly, he thinks) settled on his young and naive ward for his wife, having had her “educated” in a convent and cut off completely from any contact with men. She will, he assumes, be incapable of deceit and betrayal. Ah, the best-laid plans…
It’s been suggested that Molière, who himself married a coquettish woman 20 years his junior, may have seen plenty of his own fears in Arnolphe’s. Certainly, while we laugh at the man’s self-satisfied airs and the downfall of his scheme, we feel a bit of pity, too, for he really does have feelings for the young Agnes (Amber Suleskey).
But we know his plan is doomed to failure, for in his absence Agnes has managed to connect, from her balcony, with the young Horace (Nidal Zarour). Although she knows nothing of love, she’s pretty sure that her feelings for Horace are different from hers for Arnolphe, who discovers her treachery when Horace mistakenly confides in him.
Myroup’s reactions run the gamut from smugness at the outset to growing shock and outrage and, ultimately, a great (comic) despair. The actor is certainly not afraid of taking his behavior to extremes, but in this style of comedy it works. Director Murray W. Chase has a sure hand for Molière, and he’s aided by eye-pleasing costume designs by Nicholas Hartman and Jeannette Rybciki and winning performances from Suleskey, Zarour and Scott Vitale and Candace Artim as the requisite witless servants as well.
While your attention may occasionally flag for a moment, overall The School for Wives is a treat, and one to be seen only through April 29. So call 488-1115 or go to venicestage.com for tickets.