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The Misanthrope
in a new verse adaptation
by Timothy Mooney

World Premiere Production Colorado University-Denver Theater Department, 1999

"The play has been translated into a lyrical masterpiece imported into the 20th century and adapted for American audiences by Timothy Mooney." --Tina Torrez CU-Denver Advocate

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About the Adaptation
by Tim Mooney

The Misanthrope (1664-6), my last Moliere adaptation to date, is another of Moliere's most produced works in the US, a fact which may have much to do with the availability of an excellent translation by Richard Wilbur. Again, Moliere plays upon a single character trait, this time the central character's hatred of mankind, and his insistence upon always telling the truth, in spite of what others may want to hear. As such, he insults his friends and acquaintances, refusing, to compliment a man on the sonnet he has written, and taking his lover to task for the many men she entertains. Another recurrent theme in Moliere: love wins out over principle. However much Alceste may rail against society, he has fallen in love with the greatest coquette therein.

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The Misanthrope
Act Three, Scene Four

... I had a talk last night with just a few
Upstanding folk when topic turned to you.
And though, you know, I instantly defended,
I fear your actions were not well commended.
The looseness of your ways and the parade
Of men who visit you weren't well portrayed.
Your coquetry, I fear, is now notorious,
And they spoke in a tone that's quite censorious.
I was astounded at this sharp attack,
And in your fair defense I did not lack.
I spoke of your good spirit and I mentioned,
You only have the finest of intentions.
And yet some things I couldn't quite gainsay,
With issues that I can't explain away.
And ultimately, I made some concession
That your behavior gives the wrong impression.
And that your actions may well be the source
Of gossip and conjecture rather coarse.
And that you wouldn't be so oft mistook
If you took greater care for how things look.
It's not that I'm suggesting you're to blame
For deeds the like of which we mustn't name!
But people's minds do tend that way to go,
And we must guard 'gainst vice's slightest show.
I know you know my purity of purpose,
Intending only to do you great service,
I share these thoughts to help my dearest friend,
And have in mind no other hoped-for end.

Oh, Madame, I could not miss your intent
And I instinctively knew what you meant.
This information's such an inspiration
I am reminded of your reputation.
And think that I might repay you your due,
By telling of what people say of you!
I'll follow the example that you've set
Reporting of the good folk I have met:
I stopped the other day at a soiree
And there, some people tasting the buffet
Had launched a conversation that regarded
Where pious folk from piety had parted.
Alas! I fear the prudery you savor
Was not regarded with all that much favor.
The pious face you manage to contort
The way you talk of virtue and distort
One's honor with suspicion and with scandal --
At snooping out a sin, none hold a candle --
The self-esteem you seem to hold so dear,
While mankind earns your crocodile tear;
Most notably, the twisted way you measure
The nature of one's inoffensive pleasure.
All this, Madame, to say with simple candor
Was treated as no more than simple slander.
"Why does," they asked, "she keep this pious show
When everything she does belies it so?"
She says her prayers as much as would a nun
But cheats her maids of wages they have won.
She shows her piety all through the parish,
And yet she paints her face all thick and garish.
On naked statues she would place her ban,
And yet she wouldn't mind a naked man!
Of course, I told them they were being vicious
And that your nature wasn't that malicious.
And yet, I couldn't shake their new conviction,
And they suggested I make interdiction,
To tell you to leave off their moral health,
And rather worry more about yourself!
They said one's own soul should be much more clear
Before one says how others should appear.
And only perfect people should express
A righteous anger in the Lord's behest.
A better plan to let the minister
Decide who's good and who is sinister.
I know you know my purity of purpose,
Intending only to do you great service,
I share these thoughts to help my dearest friend,
And have in mind no other hoped-for end.

I see a thank you's too much to expect,
Though I hoped for, at least, a slight respect.
And since, Madame, you have brought out your claws,
I see my ministrations give you pause.

Oh, no, Madame, in fact, if we could grab it,
This opportunity should be a habit.
It is so hard to get objective view
To know what people think of what we do
And so, if you are willing, let's pursue
Arrangements for repeated rendezvous,
Where we might tell each other, entrez nous
What you've heard said of me, and I of you.

I'm sure it's only I whom they condemn;
No evil word is said of you by them.

I think, Madame, we're quick to censure sin
According to what season we are in.
When one is fast approaching her September,
It may be better to put out love's ember
When charms no longer stoke the proper mood,
It may be time to play the role of prude.
Perhaps when my attractions pass their spring,
My tone will take on just your angry ring,
I think, though, I'll wait till that moment nears;
No woman is a prude at twenty years.

The way you flaunt your age with such a brag;
A listener would think me some old hag!
The fact is that we're not so separated
That men's advances have at all abated.
I am, Madame, completely thrown aback,
What vexes you to make this rash attack?

And I, myself, would like to know just why,
Each place you go you give me a black eye.
Am I to blame for your sad lack of touch,
And that men don't want you now quite as much?
If men should see me, pay me their respects,
With such an ardor due the weaker sex,
And utter vows that you would rather hear
What might I do that could abate your fear?
If you want lovers, all right then, that's fine,
If you can, help yourself to some of mine!

Oh, now, do you suspect that I might covet
Your suite of suitors? That I'm not above it?
Or that the world is not quite well appraised
Of what you do to keep their ... hopes all raised?
Or that the reason they come here and flirt's to
Better view such paragon of virtue!
Is it your merit that these men adore?
Or do they benefit from their amour?
The world is not so quickly taken in.
There's many women Heaven made to win
The hearts of man, who don't attract a pack
Of sniffing dogs, the way your lovers act.
From this, there's but one thesis to deduce;
Which is these men come for a love that's loose!
So you might soften yet your brazen stance
About the conquests bought in this dark dance.
I would suggest your vanity be checked,
To treat the world with somewhat more respect.
If we were all that jealous of your train,
We might adjust our ways with little strain,
And earn with ease that same degrading laurel,
That is if we were not so very moral.

Now, there's a strategy! Do as you will,
And we'll soon see if you can find your fill,
And once you do--

Madame, that's quite enough!
We cross the line with all this sordid stuff.
My coach has not arrived yet to retrieve me,
Or else, I would have long been gone, believe me!

Oh, stay as long as you prefer; feel free.
Do not rush off so fast because of me.
And if it's I who threatens your remaining
I'll leave you with a guest more entertaining.
This timely man comes now just to say "hi."
And you'll find him more interesting than I.

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About Timothy Mooney

Tim Mooney has worked in, with and around the theatre for almost thirty years, as an actor, director and playwright, and everything in-between.

Tim received his bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University, and a master of fine arts degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He went on to internships with the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and the Seattle Rep, where he was assistant director to John Dillon and Daniel Sullivan, respectively.

Tim taught acting and stage movement for two years with Northern Illinois University, before creating “The Script Review,” a newsletter that reviewed some 700 plays in manuscript form over the course of seven years, distributed to Literary Managers and Directors all over the United States. As a director, Tim’s production of “Secret Obscenities” was one of five winners at the Bailiwick Directors’ Festival in Chicago.

From there, Tim stepped in as Artistic Director of the Stage Two Theatre Company, where he produced nearly fifty plays in five years, most of them original works.

When Stage Two turned to the classics, Tim adapted his own sparkling rhymed, iambic-pentameter versions of the plays of Moliere creating fifteen new Moliere plays in seven years. Stage Two produced “Tartuffe,” “The Miser,” “The Schemings of Scapin,” “The Misanthrope,” “The Doctor in Spite of Himself” and “Sganarelle,” and companies around the world picked up on these plays too, with productions all across the United States, as well as Canada and even India. U.S. venues included the Pasadena Shakespeare Festival, M.I.T., Wayne State University and Universities of Colorado, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Ohio and many more.

Tim’s writing work brought him full circle, back in front of the footlights as a performer, playing the lead role in many of the works he had written. (In fact, all of the roles in which he now found himself cast were the parts that Moliere himself had originated!) This was to give Tim the impetus for a one-man show, “Moliere Than Thou” (Best Adapted Work, San Francisco Fringe Fest). The play serves as a quick introduction to some of Moliere’s greatest works and speeches, and has been seen all over the U.S. and Canada. It has given tens of thousands of students their first exposure to Moliere, and along the way Tim has taught thousands of students in his workshops, introducing the concepts further developed in his upcoming text, “Acting at the Speed of Life,” as well as his collection of Moliere Monologues.

Most recently, Tim has further refined the art of the one-person show, creating a one-man Sci-Fi Thriller, “Criteria,” (Artistic Picks Finalist, Seattle Fringe Fest), as well as “Karaoke Knights” a “One Man Rock Opera.”

Tim continues to write new versions of the plays of Moliere, novels, short stories, songs, children’s stories and screenplays.

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