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University Theatre's 'The Miser' brings zany, fast-paced comedy

Katie Pryor
Arts & Culture Editor

For those who love fast-paced satire, farce, risqué innuendos or even 17th-century French playwright Moliere, University Theatre presents “The Miser,” directed by Professor David Donovan, in the Rafters Theatre in Dutcher Hall.

Harpagon (Curtis Proctor) gives orders to his two servants (Jen Trewhella and Philip Rooney). (Katie Pryor/Snapper)
Harpagon (Curtis Proctor) gives orders to his two servants (Jen Trewhella and Philip Rooney). (Katie Pryor/Snapper)

The story of “The Miser” is the classic tale of love and money. The titular miser Harpagon (Curtis Proctor) hopes to marry his daughter Elise (Jules Diehl) off to a wealthy older man, Seigneur Anselme (Justin Benson) without a dowry, even though she loves the penniless Valere (Juan Carlos Morales). Meanwhile, Harpagon hopes to marry the beautiful yet impoverished Mariane (Rachel Faust) even though she is the beloved of his son Cleante (Michael Garland). Along with this central conflict, there are also side plots involving Cleante trying to illegally take out a loan from his father in order to help Mariane and her ill mother and a reveal that a few of the characters are long lost relatives.

Frosine (Nicole Weerbrouck) brings Mariane (Rachel Faust) to Harpagon's home. (Katie Pryor/Snapper)
Frosine (Nicole Weerbrouck) brings Mariane (Rachel Faust) to Harpagon’s home. (Katie Pryor/Snapper)

For a play that was first performed in 1668, University Theatre’s rendition took a different approach to the play by setting the story in Paris in 1948, which is evident in almost every aspect and detail of the show. The costumes, designed by Priscilla Kaufhold, embodied the glamour of the 1940s, from the slick suits, waistcoats and hats worn by the actors to the elegant full skirts worn by the women. During the opening scene of the show, the actors were running around the stage and Harpagon was hiding his precious riches to the tune of “Sing, Sing, Sing,” a popular song from the Big Band era of the 1930s. Songs from French cabaret singer Edith Piaf, including “La Vie En Rose,” played before the show and during intermission, and the set, designed by Victor Capecce, which included pillars, benches and a fountain in the center, portrayed the romance of Paris.

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Juan Carlos Morales plays Valere, Justin Benson plays Seigneur Anselme and Alex Arnold plays Master Jacques. (Katie Pryor/Snapper)
Juan Carlos Morales plays Valere, Justin Benson plays Seigneur Anselme and Alex Arnold plays Master Jacques. (Katie Pryor/Snapper)

The cast was strong and vibrant overall, with Garland and Diehl as Harpagon’s long-suffering and love-struck children, Faust as Harpagon’s reluctant bride-to-be, Morales as the suave Valere and Alex Arnold as the tricky cook and coachman Master Jacques. Nicole Weerbrouck gave a sly performance as Frosine who helps arrange the marriage between Harpagon and Mariane. Kris Finkey, Josh Smith and Philip Rooney were cartoonishly hysterical as three commissioners in charge of finding the people who stole Harpagon’s riches. Proctor, though, stole the show and every scene he was in as Harpagon, giving a performance that was full of bitter hilarity and well-timed jokes. From barking orders and waving his cane around at his servants and children, trying to woo Mariane with his old age to his sudden descent into insanity when it comes to light that his money has been stolen, he perfectly portrays a man who loves money and not much else.

Overall, “The Miser” was yet another hilarious, fast-paced, and highly enjoyable production from University Theatre.

Harpagon (Proctor) argues with his son Cleante (Michael Garland). (Katie Pryor/Snapper)
Harpagon (Proctor) argues with his son Cleante (Michael Garland). (Katie Pryor/Snapper)

“The Miser” will be performed Feb. 27, 28, at 8 p.m. and March 1 at 2 p.m. Tickets can may be purchased online, at MUTicketsOnline.com, at the Student Memorial Center Ticket Office (Room 103, 21 S. George St., Millersville), at The Ware Center (42 N. Prince St., Lancaster) or by calling the Ticket Office at 717-871-7600. Ticket Offices are open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.