Can Christian be a misanthrope?
Molière's “misanthropist” in the Lucerne theater You can always be moral later
The Globe has been dismantled, the theater back as we know it. “The Misanthrope” is the debut production of the play on the big stage and one is almost disappointed to actually see this play in its well-known form. But that is quickly forgotten ...
The “misanthropist” lasts two hours on the stage of the Lucerne Theater, but you don't notice anything. Light-footed, entertaining and enjoyable, the evening is over as soon as it has started. The smile in the audience turns into loud laughter in the first few minutes of the piece. The Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Poquelin alias Molière was a master of the comedy and he would be happy. Especially when it comes to his text, which exposes the human togetherness with cleverly placed punchlines.
The German translation in rhyming verses impresses and surprises in its naturalness. And it gives the sometimes serious sentences the comical echo that French comedy needs. In fact, it is the translation by the great and unforgettable Jürgen Gosch and Wolfgang Wiens.
The play was premiered in 1666, with Molière himself in the lead role, of course, and with its timeless theme it still works flawlessly.
Alceste, the misanthropist, beautifully overdramatic played by Christian Baus, is fed up with the whitewash and false friendliness of the better society. He has committed himself to unconditional honesty towards his fellow human beings - regardless of their feelings. When his friend Oronte asks him to judge one of his sonnets, Alceste does not spare the poet and hurts him deeply. Alceste doesn't care much about that.
What worries him much more that his beloved Célimène is not exactly honest about it. She gossips about people whom she later flatters. Alceste looks over their failures until he becomes a victim of their duplicity himself. And finally he has to choose: for his love or for his principles.
The big conflict of the piece: the unconditional truthfulness stands against the fulfillment of the "good taste". How much honesty can a person take? How much honesty can a society take? - a timeless theme. And today, too, unfortunately, what Molière already formulated is too often true: "Those who do not have the gift of hiding their thoughts have very little business in this country."
A parlor of vanities
Niklaus Helbling's staging holds back, leaving the stage to the text and the comic talent of the actors. With comedic dance interludes - such as the courtship dance by Oronte and Alceste and the fights - as well as with the romantic approaches of the characters, the staging gets to the point without celebrating itself.
Helbling sets the action in a parlor of vanities, in which every outward appearance and every expression are precisely in the sights of society.
Kathrin Krumbein's costumes could very well be shown at a fashion show, to which the music would also go perfectly. The unusual cuts, the shoes and the colors are reminiscent of the Capitol of Panem or the modern interpretations of the world of Versailles. Wild hairstyles complete the picture with blue beards, hair knots for the men and teased manes for the women - for everyone, of course, with colored extensions.
The big eye
The stage is dominated by one big eye. Otherwise, a yellow pedestal, a bench, a telephone, a few wooden chairs and a metal cube on a large patterned surface are the only elements available to the actors.
The combination of the parts and the dominant eye in the center - that is a matter of taste. If it symbolizes the constant observation by society, then the picture is a bit worn out. Why the curtain or the printed canvas is lowered again and again with the closed eye between the scenes does not reveal to me either. There are no major modifications or interludes that require this.
A welcome guest and a nice farewell
The guest actor Hans-Jörg Frey is a real stroke of luck as Oronte. His expressive movements and affected language make the audience cheer.
Philinte, played heavily by Jakob Leo Stark, and Alina Vimbai Strähler as Eliante then let real romance arise in the last moments of the piece before they run into the open end.
After the long applause we made our way home, happy and satisfied. There was no trembling, no tears, no desperate questioning of our world. This evening at the theater didn't try to change the world. But we laughed. Laughed a lot and felt caught in our everyday behavior. And as Molière put it so beautifully: "Later you can still be moral."
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