PAD’s ‘Misanthrope’ remains relevant to modern campus culture
The Performing Arts Department’s production of “The Misanthrope,” written by Moliere and directed by PAD assistant professor of drama Pannill Camp, is sure to remind students of their own social struggles at Washington University. Though the play was written as a critique of the superficiality of the 17th-century Parisian elite, Moliere’s comedy endures in the modern era and translates well to an American college campus.
The play interrogates an age-old social problem: At what point is honesty politesse? According to a misanthrope, always. We’ve all had our misanthropic moments at Washington University, whether it be saying something we regret in a Facebook rant or taking an argument too far in class. Eventually, we all learn to adjust our levels of honesty to get through life—otherwise, we’d be our own worst enemies in job interviews and social situations. Alceste, the play’s title character, represents the opposite approach to growing up: He doesn’t adjust.
“Alceste wishes he could fit in, wants to fit in, but he just can’t help himself,” senior Charley Cotton, who plays Alceste in the production, explained. “He just has this need to object to pretty much anything anyone does, in part on a principle level, and in part from a purely contrarian place.”
Charley sums up Alceste’s paradigm with one of his lines: “Men, sir, are always wrong.”
Not everyone in the play handles social conundrums in the same way. Each character performs for her friends in order to make people like her and sustain the persona she’s built up in society. Celimene, played by sophomore Anna McConnell, embodies all the false flattery and flirtatiousness that Alceste seems to hate, but she becomes the misanthrope’s love interest nonetheless. On the other hand, Philinte, played by junior Gabe Hoffman, represents Alceste’s best friend and dramatic foil. A (weak) voice of reason in the show, Philinte seems to constantly put his life on hold in order to pull his buddy back from the ledge.
“Even though [the play] was written in verse and rhyming couplets, it still updates well to modern, contemporary society,” senior Victoria Yin, assistant director, added. “It’s not a stretch we can’t recognize [at Wash. U.].”
“I found that [the play] really relates to my personal life and relationships,” McConnell said. “Relationships between friends, relationships between more than friends—I think you can learn a lot, emotionally, from [‘The Misanthrope’].”
According to Hoffman, the play also speaks to modern hookup culture and “the constant state of limbo people often find themselves in” on college campuses.
“Misanthropes are everywhere. Everyone is misanthropic about something,” Hoffman continued. “Alceste is really relatable. He just wants people to be candid and not passive aggressive…There’s value in that.”
The play takes place in a giant playroom—a bit like the Wash. U. bubble—and will remind audiences of the show’s comedic aspects. This production includes ping pong, dance sequences, karaoke and vaporizers (oh, boy) to emphasize the play’s modern setting and make the content conversational rather than historical.
“The Misanthrope” will run in the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre on Nov. 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. and on Nov. 15 and 22 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for students and can be purchased at the Edison Box Office in Mallinckrodt.