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Friday, Jun 21, 2024

Revival Resounds with Comedy and Desperation

Author: Abbie Beane

Ten actors and actresses stand in front of a backdrop of pale green walls, beneath the yellow glow of one delicate chandelier and before a modest set of antique furniture.

Under the weight of their elaborate 17th century French costumes, the introduction of the players marked the commencement of "Le Mariage Forcé," a French play authored by Molière in 1664.

The play was revived on Friday and Saturday nights in Le Chateau's Grand Salon.

The play hosted a rather large crowd and, being an extremely animated performance, lent even those overwhelmed by the language barrier insight and visual gratification.

The performance presented scenes of comedy, desperation and utter madness.

Sganarelle, played by Associate Professor of French Charles Nunley, was engaged to a much younger woman, Dorimene, played byAssistant in French Marianne Le Moigne. His concern regarding her unfaithful nature was the crux of the play. He elicited advice on the matter from his old friend Geronimo, two philosophers and two gypsies, all of whom were played by talented members of "Cercle Francais," the French Club on campus.

Nunley's portrayal of a distinguished man ridden with anxiety, fear and despair, was consistently commendable. Through his incessant employment of rapid, frenetic gestures and contorted facial expressions, he effectively drove his character with emotions powerful enough to exhaust the audience as well as himself.

Nunley admitted that the most challenging part was scene four, when he sought advice from Pancrace, a mad philosopher played by Aaron Murray Nellis '02. Said Nunley, "I had relatively little to say in the scene, and I found it most difficult to be on stage with my mouth shut!"

Nellis played an engaging and intense character, completely self-absorbed with his own incorrigible and unceasing advice. At the same time, however, he always remained madder than his own madness, lending humor to his role.

Brian Fink '05, a French major, said of Nellis, "He stole the show," attesting to the combined strength of Nellis' acting and the mentally deranged character he was playing.

As for his favorite scene, Nunley chose the one where he confessed his love for Dorimene. "It is my favorite scene because it takes guts, even by today's standards, to verbalize desire in such explicit ways," he said

Andre Estanislao '05 played Marphurius, a darkly intense character seasoned with skepticism of all ideas and existence itself. He too received unrestrained laughter from the audience.

Estanislao explained his attraction to the role by saying that "it was a mixture of slapstick and witty comedy." His scenes made one a boisterous, laughing participant in the misfortunes of others, but at the same time a pensive member of the audience, reflecting on the subtle messages of the play.

Since the play was written in archaic French, Estanislao, being more of a novice French speaker than the others, admitted to its difficulty. "[The play] really strengthened my appreciation for France and the French language," Estanislao said. "Participating in this sort of activity really does help one's linguistic abilities."

Le Moigne, a native French speaker, attested to the difficulty of her role as Dorimène, the ravaging yet enchanting woman in crimson and black. "Dorimène is a very ambiguous character," Le Moigne said, "and it took me a lot of time to feel comfortable in that role, to find the balance between the seductive side and the dominating side of the character."

She also confessed to loving the challenge, which she described as "truly fantastic," and that has added to her experience at Middlebury. She especially enjoyed collaborating with the other players, saying, "We shared stress, anger, and joy, and nothing compares to that experience."

She applauded Nunley for being a talented actor who carried everyone through the play.

Nunley describes the experience as "one of the richest ways to grow as a teacher," and is very grateful to Associate Professor of Theater Mark Evancho for "making his dream a reality."

He said that he hopes that in the "not-so-distant future the College will be constructing a theater space to be used exclusively for the production of plays in languages other than English."

He described theater as "one of the most effective ways to study foreign languages, and as such, must receive the support it deserves."

Judging by the support the actors have given each other and the genuine good feelings they share regarding theater and the French language, the group truly appears to be a "cercle" and a dynamic force, which will stop only upon the completion of their goals.