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Theater Review: The Wanna-Be Gentleman

PC: Peter Swanzy
Moliere’s comedies are so rarely produced on stage locally, let alone in most community theaters, that it’s a treat when the opportunity arrives to see them on stage. If you’ve never seen one of Moliere’s comedies or only experienced them when force fed in a college course (which was my unfortunate introduction to the man and his work), then the Seabury Hall production of “The Wanna-Be Gentleman” provides an ideal introduction.

Moliere (the stage name of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin) wrote “The Bourgeousis Gentleman” in 1670, which  has been adapted/translated by Albert Bermel into “The Wanna-Be Gentleman.” This Todd Van Amburgh-directed production is a complete delight and a feast for the eyes.

PC: Peter Swanzy

Carver Glomb (in a generously goofy performance) stars as Monsieur Jourdain, a man of considerable bluster who, nevertheless, seeks an education on how to be a smart, elegant gentleman. He receives an education of sorts through a series of trainers who attempt to make him a cultured man of the arts.

The standouts in the cast include Camille Erdman, whose blend of combat and dance results in a hilarious physical moment in the first act. Marley Mehring, playing Jourdain’s wife, has a strong presence and superb comic timing. Shelby Ferrier is terrific as Jourdain’s English teacher and Zachary Kubo is great playing the tailor.

PC: Peter Swanzy

Several actors in the cast of 16 play dual roles, a touch that adds greatly to the creatively playful vision of the production overall. Everyone is up to the nutty spirit of the piece and gives this classic farce a thorough workout. A number of scenes in the second act stand out for how well timed they are, as ideas and tender emotions swirl about.

“The Wanna-Be Gentleman” provides a dissection of relationships and our perceptions of one another. Its full of quotable dialog, though this one stands out for its timeliness: “You don’t get to be that rich for being honest.” There is an intelligence to this production, both in the timelessness of Moliere’s words and Van Amburgh’s turning this into an exercise in theatrical playfulness.

PC: Peter Swanzy

At different points in the production, the dialog turns to rhyming verse, then goes back to straight-forward recitation. A dinner sequence is so wonderfully take-it-or-leave-it weird, I didn’t know whether to gawk at the rich color palette or consider what it says about culinary design. Then there’s the stunning set: I’m unsure if it’s meant to be a flying tree with balloon leaves or a giant, floating grape. It doesn’t matter, as it’s an arresting visual all the same. Andre Morrisette’s vibrant, rainbow colored costumes are gorgeous. There’s nothing by-the-book or conventional about this funny, pleasingly odd and casually surreal farce.

At 90-minutes (one hour for the first act, a ten-minute admission and 30-minute second act), the pace is lean and the show moves well. Considering how rarely Moliere’s works are performed (outside of his “Tartuffe”), seeing this is a must for theater lovers. Go because seeing a Moliere play is good for one’s artistic bucket list, stay for the swordplay lesson and onstage balloon animal meal.

The Wanna-Be Gentleman opened on Nov. 11th at 7PM. Additional performances are on Nov. 17-18 at 7PM and Nov. 19th at 3PM.  Tickets are available at the box office and seaburyhall.org.

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About Barry Wurst II

Barry Wurst II

Barry Wurst II is a senior editor & film critic at MAUIWatch. He wrote film reviews for a local Maui publication and taught film classes at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs (UCCS). Wurst also co-hosted podcasts for Screengeeks.com and has been published in Bright Lights Film Journal and in other film-related websites. He is currently featured in the new MAUIWatch Podcast- The NERDWatch.

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