Stagecrafters’ ‘The Miser’ – Not your Granddad’s Moliere

Lenny Grossman as The Miser at Stagecrafters. Photo by Sara Stewart

By Gwen Armstrong Barker

Forget everything you learned about Moliere in high school. Stagecrafters’ high energy production of “The Miser” is something altogether new.

Barbara Mills’ boldly envisioned interpretation uses Steampunk (a blend of Victorian clothing styles with industrial influences) and David Chambers’ irreverent translation to create a stylish, mischievous world where young love is an unstoppable force.   The set, costumes and sound all exhibit loving attention to detail and add much to the atmosphere of the play.

Harpagon is a wealthy, penny-pinching widower with two children.  The play opens on the drawing room of his decaying home (a marvelously-detailed set by Scott Killinger and Marie Laster) and we see him through the window as he buries ten thousand francs in his garden.  Act one reveals his plans to marry his children Elise (Julianne Schaub) and Cleante (Dane Lavery) off to elderly, wealthy matches instead of their chosen lovers.   To make matters worse, Harpagon reveals his plans to marry the lovely Marianne (Julie Roberts) whom Cleante had hoped to claim for his own.

The heart of the play is clearly with the young lovers, as they scheme to reclaim their futures from their greedy, self-absorbed father with the help of Frosine, the Matchmaker (Jen Allegra), La Fleche (Nolan Maher) and Master Jaque (Dan Shefer).   The younger actors all turn in great performances. Of note is Julianne Schaub who exhibits a particularly skilled understanding of the subtleties of the language and is able find the humor in each line.

Lenny Grossman is a bit young for the role of Harpagon but overcomes this obstacle nicely with some really fine body and vocal work.   He turns in a first-rate performance with terrific comic timing; a foray into the audience in act two was particularly fun.

John Hill delivers some great work in the smaller role of Anselme.   He bursts on to the stage in the last five minutes of the play, bringing a rush of energy and a merry twinkle to all the impossible coincidences delivered in the final scene.

This is a boisterous romp of a play, a genuinely fun night out for even those theatergoers who are a bit phobic about the classics.

If You Go: Tickets are $21 for adults ($25 at the door) with discounts available for students, seniors and groups.  Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 pm on November 30, December 1 and 2.  There are four performances closing weekend with shows on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings (December 7,8,9 at 8pm) and Sunday afternoon (December 10 at 2pm).  Parking is available at a number of municipal lots along Germantown Avenue, and there are many fine restaurants in the area. The theatre is at 8130 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19118. Reserve tickets at thestagecrafters.org,