The United Players of Vancouver

The School For Wives by  Moliere. Translated by Richard Wilbur


by Jane Penistan

Moliere's The School for Wives is a piquantly delicious commentary on marriage in eighteenth-century France. Richard Wilbur's translation of rhyming couplets preserves the wit and Gallic humour of this piece. Igor Morozof and the United Players of Vancouver present an enjoyable, well thought out evening's entertainment. The short scenes are ingeniously integrated into a pleasing whole. Great credit must be given to the music arrangement of the scene bridges and the accompanying music during the acts.

The use of recorded music and the piano playing of Lorraine Smith and Nicole Schmidt were both brilliantly conceived and executed. As regular audiences know, the sets for United Players' productions are spare but always accentuate the atmosphere of the play for which they are background. The School for Wives is no exception. The use of the piano top as a bar and lunch counter, and the drawing of plain black curtains, transfer scenes effortlessly from place to place, leaving the main stage area with its balcony, staircase and ornamental pond and ironwork for major episodes. Entries through the auditorium keep the audience firmly in contact with the performance.

Costumes run the gamut from Commedia del' Arte to modern day miniskirt and boots, but do not detract from the wholeness of the production. They, like the sets and music add colourful enhancement.

The Commedia del' Arte mime and movement of Jon Dedman and Lara Tansey as Alain and Georgette is enchanting. They are to be congratulated on their controlled and graceful movement, facial expression and character portrayal.

Agnes, played by Alicia Read, is a beautiful innocent lamb, and not such a dumb blond as Arnolphe (Lawrence Cotton) had envisaged. Unfortunately, Lawrence Cotton fails to exhibit the self-satisfied arrogance that his lines proclaim. As a result, the well constructed scene in which he is exasperated beyond endurance and nearly throttles Agnes in his frustration, comes as a surprise and seems out of character for this very civilized and unphysically active man. In contrast, the exuberance of Horace (Jason Emmanuel), Agnes' illicit boyfriend, is refreshing and exhilarating. This is a warm and lively performance and an excellent foil for the solemn, slow Arnolphe. Kevin Spenst's Chrysalde is a friendly adviser and his drunk scene is beautifully managed, always teetering on the edge and never falling. Like father, like son, so Oronte, Horace's father, played by Gustavo Febres, is a volatile Latin in glowing golden satin, ruffles and gaucho hat. Both Horace and Oronte breathe more life and excitement into already tumultuous scenes.

United Players have produced an evening of enjoyable gallic fun. There is a feeling that the players enjoy it as much as the audience.

The School for Wives runs at the Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery and N.W. Marine Drive. Feb.04-27, Thurs-Sun 8:00pm. Tickets $10/$8. Call 224-8007.