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‘Miser’ anything but stingy with quality

Maurice Barnfather

Moliere’s “The Miser,” written more than 300 years ago and with a

plot that has more twists than a corkscrew, is not the easiest play

to revive. But Craig Belknap’s production for A Noise Within

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unquestionably belongs in the premier league.

This production, which never mistakes commotion for comedy nor

mania for mirth, is expertly adapted from Moliere’s original French

prose into semi-modern English by David Chambers, and reset, tongue

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in cheek, in Paris immediately before the 1929 stock market crash. It

is a celebration of craft, and there is an abundance of craft on

display.

Mary Boucher is memorable as the conniving matchmaker Frosine, the

perfect foil to Mark Bramhall, who is simply amazing as the Miser,

Harpagon, the ironic, self-deceiving hypocrite, who loves money

almost more than life itself. He is the bourgeois miser who steals

the oats from his horses; who is distracted by the suspicion that his

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children intend to rob him; who, on finding it necessary to entertain

10 persons at dinner, provides for eight only.

Indeed, every scene in which he appears serves to throw fresh

light upon his character. And repulsive as is the vice he represents,

his presence throws no gloom over the play, partly as he is held up

to derision as well as hatred, and partly because all his

surroundings are treated in the spirit of the liveliest comedy.

The key point is that Harpagon is determined not only to take a

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bride for himself but also turn a tidy profit from marrying off both

his ne’er-do-well gambler son, Cleante, cleverly played by Adam

Graham Smith, and his somewhat willful daughter, Elise, perfectly

captured by Danya Solomon. All is put on hold when Harpagon’s

treasure, buried in his garden, is stolen and the chase for the

criminal is on.

Everything in this exquisite production has been re-thought and

re-felt. But along with the gutsy performances from a first-rate

ensemble, much of the credit for the evening’s success belongs to

Chambers’ adaptation, which clicks perfectly into place, matching

Moliere’s situation with a deft, verbal comedy.


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