Seeking to outwit all the cuckolds in town whose wives routinely cheat, Monsieur La Douche reaches the culmination of a long term plan to train the perfect wife – completely innocent and pliable to his will – in this new translation of Molière’s classic comedy.
Should you see it?
When you are a man, in want of a wife, you begin to take notice of marital strife. The cheating, the affairs, the salacious seductions. Oh boy, marriage is quite the production! But Monsieur La Douche wants none of that scandal. He’s determined to find a nice woman, not some feminine vandal. So he hires some nuns to raise a young girl. A girl so brainless, she just curtsies and twirls. For in his mind – as silly as it is – he believes dumb girls are more likely to be loyal and stay his. But things never work out the way that you plan them. Especially when your plan is so ridiculous and random.
And so it begins, The School of Wives! Told completely in rhyme, we follow our protagonist, Arnolphe (a.k.a Monsieur La Douche) as he struggles to hold onto the woman he intends to wed, Agnès. A struggle made no easier when young Horace, the son of Monsieur La Douche’s close friend, captures her heart. Through deceit and disguise, Monsieur La Douche is determined to thwart Horace’s advances.
Billed as a present-tense translation, David Whiteley gives Molière’s 352 year-old comedy new life. He manages to stay true to the overall rhythm of the original play while also adding modern elements that keep it fresh and hilarious. Keep your ears open for the subtle references to nursery rhymes, current slang (“totes” being my favourite), and modern literary works. Most amusing were the moments when Whiteley very obviously forced a word to rhyme by completely changing the pronunciation. Admittedly, the rhyming verse did take a little while to get used to, but once I adjusted it came across as very natural.
Directed by John P. Kelly, the cast of this play brought an energy to the stage that only added to the humour. Drew Moore’s surfer-dude portrayal of Horace was particularly funny. And Tess Mc Manus pulled off the happily ignorant character of Agnès in a very tactful way. It would have been so easy to play that character as over-the-top ditsy and dumb, but Mc Manus managed to give her some dignity. As soon as the play threatened to lag, Catriona Leger and David Benedict Brown perked everything up with their high-energy portrayals of Monsieur La Douche’s servants.
David Whiteley did a fantastic job making this play palatable to modern audiences, while staying true to the rhythm and rhyming verse of the original. Not only will it keep you laughing, it will have you thinking in rhyme long after the show is over.
I certainly enjoyed it, as did the audience, with our collective laughter occasionally drowning out the actors. As it should be with a comedy.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you thought? Did David Whiteley’s rhyming verse have you laughing in the aisles? What was your favourite quote? Join the discussion in the comments below.
The School for Wives runs at The Gladstone Theatre now through September 27th. More information.