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Molière’s ‘The Miser’ is at Art Center Theater

The Ojai Art Center’s second play in its 80th anniversary season is Molière’s “The Miser,” running April 5 to 28. Molière is one of the most enduring classical playwrights of all time. “The Miser” is a perfect example of bringing an old story first to the 17th century (it premiered in 1668), and with this translation by David Chambers, and updated to the 19th century by director Paul Sulzman, it continues to illuminate and resonate and challenge our sensibilities.

“In choosing plays for our 80th anniversary season, I wanted to emphasize not only the theater’s connective tissue but to illustrate the timeless aspects of theatre itself,” said Ojai Art Center artistic director Richard Camp. “The two spellings of theatre/theater are purposely used. I consider ‘theatre’ the overall concept of the art form, and ‘theater’ the edifice in which that art form is performed.”

Theatre has a long-standing tradition of stories that are created and shared throughoutthe ages. Molière based “The Miser” on a play by the Roman playwright, Plautus, who, in turn, based many of his stories on those of the ancient Greeks. The brilliance of theatre lies in the way the stories are retold throughout

the centuries and, in doing so, gives the stories new meaning and new incarnations for the period in which they are presented.

“The Miser” features a character, Harpagon, who is absorbed with a single-minded obsession: money. He is paranoid that his children are out to rob him. He is loath even to speak the word “give.” In every aspect of his life, Harpagon is driven by his avarice and as a paragon of greed he exemplifies a multitude of facets that still plagues our society today. The “greed is good” manifesto spills over into other areas besides money and still lives on in the distorted dreams of many, reaching to the highest levels of government, business, sports, entertainment and other aspects of our lives.

Though this might sound like a dark play, be prepared to laugh. This being Molière, the entire play is filled with outrageous, absurdist comedy. Molière was/is a master of that genre, and a fitting addition to the 2019 season that began by honoring the first show done at the Art Center Theater with “Night Must Fall,” and now honors one of the classics, reaching back to weave another thread into the patchwork quilt that defines theatre in our theater.

Cast in the play are many Ojai favorites:

Harpagon — Cecil Sutton

Frosine — Lee Ann Manley

Jacques — Ron Feltner

Marianne — Jessi May Stevenson

Brindavoine — Doug Knott

Valere — Jeremy Bryson

Elise — Kallie O’Connor

LaFleche — Michael McCarthy

Cleante. — Daniel Mitchell

Master Simon — Don Gaidano

Chief — Bill Spellman

Anselme — Leonard Klaif

“The Miser” runs weekends from April 5 to 28, with Friday and Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Box office opens 45 minutes before each show. The Ojai Art Center is at 113 S. Montgomery St.