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Moliere's
miser_logo
in a new verse adaptation
by Timothy Mooney

Mooney's iambic pentameter enlivens the story and puts some extra punch in its punchlines. -- Rick Moser, Pioneer Press

This "Miser" really does seem to jump off the page with new energy.
--
H. Lee Murphy, Chicago Tribune

Moliere's "The Miser" still draws laughs.-- Gwen H. Jader, Daily Herald

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About the Adaptation

by Tim Mooney

The Miser (1668) is one of what I refer to as Moliere's great "character" plays. Moliere has a talent for taking a single trait and placing it at the center of the action, making the entire play revolve around that characteristic. Every time we come back to see the trait play itself out in a new context it seems more and more outrageous. The Miser, Harpagon, confuses love and money through the course of the play, which provides a fun platform for twisting the language of one into the language of the other. Much of the plot centers around a money box that Harpagon has planted out in the garden. When the box is stolen, he accuses Valere of having taken the money, and yet, Valere confuses the issue, thinking that Harpagon has found out that he is courting his daughter on the sly. They spend the scene arguing about two different things.

In the scene below, we enjoy the dual language of a disguised sexuality, as Cleante woos Mariane right under his father's nose.

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The Miser
Act III, Scenes 8-11

MARIANE, FROSINE

FROSINE
Oh, these young boys, they talk with quite a tongue,
But older men are good to pass among.
Disgust toward husband's healthy to endure,
To curb the instincts and remain demure.
But you won't have to worry for so long
A death amends this temporary wrong.

MARIANE
How dreadful to hold watch on someone's life!
And death may not accommodate a wife.


FROSINE
You'll only marry him upon condition:
Three months until a widowly transition.
But here he is; we'll see how all is termed.


MARIANE
Oh, darkest of my fears have been confirmed!


Act Three, Scene Nine
HARPAGON, MARIANE, FROSINE

HARPAGON (To MARIANE)
Forgive me, dear, should I wear spectacle
It's just to better see one so delectable.
These are not needed, save for, insofar's,
With spectacles we scan the sky for stars.
To me, you are a star, the brightest starry,
You outshine all much bolder than Centauri.
Frosine, she doesn't look into my eyes.


FROSINE
It's just that you are such a rare surprise!
These maids do blush when they first brush desire.


HARPAGON
I do forget how I alight her fire.
(To Mariane.) But here my daughter welcomes you aright.


Act Three, Scene Ten
HARPAGON, ELISE, MARIANE, FROSINE

MARIANE
Forgive me being so slow to alight.


ELISE
'Twas my charge to have made the call on you.


HARPAGON
These daughters and the silliness they spew!


MARIANE (Aside to FROSINE.)
That horrid man! Oh, might we just ignore him?


HARPAGON
What's that?

FROSINE
She told me how she does adore him.


HARPAGON
You honor me, my dear.

MARIANE (Aside to FROSINE.)
Oh, what a brute!
HARPAGON
What did she say?

FROSINE

She thinks that you are cute.
HARPAGON
Such joy, my love! My sweet!


MARIANE (Aside to FROSINE.)
I might explode!

FROSINE
She longs for when she might join your abode.


Act Three, Scene Eleven
HARPAGON, MARIANE, ELISE, CLEANTE, VALERE, FROSINE, BRINDAVOINE

HARPAGON
Ah, here's my son, and now the family's here.


MARIANE (Aside to FROSINE.)
Frosine! It's he! The one I held so dear!


FROSINE
Oh, what a chance! Had I but fully known ...


HARPAGON
Surprised my children are so fully grown?


CLEANTE (To Mariane.)
Dear miss, this news today came unexpected
You might imagine I was quite affected.


MARIANE
I understand, and greatly sympathize.
This overtakes us both as a surprise.


CLEANTE (Aloud.)
My father could not make a fairer choice
And I, to his lovemaking add a voice.
And yet, I would that he had found another.
I've no desire to see you as my mother.
I hope that this is not to you so vital,
But may I never know you by that title.
Some certain few might hear my words as rude,
But I suspect they'll not be misconstrued.
This marriage gives me quite a strong aversion,
And thoughts thereof do strike me as perversion.
You know that to this wedding I'm opposed
And I might only wish you'd be exposed!


HARPAGON
Apologize, you cad! For certain it
Is bordering upon impertinent!


MARIANE
My heart, like yours, does also seem to shun
I have no wish to see you as my son.
I've no desire to cause you such distress.
Instead I'd to the matchmaker address-required:
Were I not forced by power absolute
I would contest this firmly resolute.


HARPAGON
Well played! You take him out with expert style.
My wicked son's determined but to rile
He knows not what he says; the little brat!


MARIANE
No, truly, I must say, I credit that
The words he flings in no way do offend;
I only wish his problem I might mend.
I much prefer a frank and bold confession
Delivered with a brave and stern expression.
Had he used other lines, I'd hold him less.


HARPAGON
Such grace, for heinous faults of his to bless.
Such errors he will one day grow to grieve.


CLEANTE
I'll not. I hope the lady will believe.


HARPAGON
Again the insolence? Why thus persist?


CLEANTE
I can't betray my heart, which does insist.


HARPAGON
I warn you son to find another theme.


CLEANTE
I, then, will speak on your behalf, and seem
To say I've never seen one quite so charming;
To be without you strikes me as alarming.
To please you only would be fondest rapture
Your love is finest flag for one to capture,
Which I would choose 'gainst noblest of birth
To make of me, the happiest on earth.
No obstacle would seem to me too big ...


HARPAGON
That's quite enough; no need to lose your wig.


CLEANTE
I only compliment with fond regards on your behalf.


HARPAGON
I do my own lovemaking, son. I've no need for a staff.
(Pause. No one seems to know where to look.)

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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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NOTHING STINGY ABOUT STAGE TWO'S 'MISER'

by Rick Moser, Pioneer Press

Stage Two, the ambitious Lake County theater company, has entered stage five of its continuing evolution (for dramarcheologists, we have identified the proto-Simonian period, the Simo-Waukegonian era, the Mooney millennium, and the French interregnum).

How this new epoch will be dubbed remains to be seen. There's a lot going on. Eric Wegener has signed on as the company's new artistic director, and the group has left Highwood to seek a new home. While Wegener is spending the summer on his other gig, artistic director of the Shawnee Theatre of Southern Indiana, Stage Two is enjoying a very happy hegira: former artistic director Tim Mooney has returned to direct his original adaptation of Moliere's "The Miser" amid the classic opulence of the old Cuneo estate in Vernon Hills.

Mooney announced his departure some months ago to concentrate on his writing. He's proved good to his word, nearing completion of his original musical "Holy Acrimony" while polishing off this impressive accomplishment: the first verse adaptation of "The Miser," which was originally written in prose.

We fully endorse Mooney's decision to set the play to verse. Moliere began such a rich tradition of twitting penny-pinchers that the original can seem old hat. Mooney's iambic pentameter enlivens the story and puts some extra punch in its punchlines. And if you fear an evening of dry classicism, Mooney is only too willing to stoop to conquer. Consider such rhymes as "dowry/towery," or, in a stretch worthy of Jesse Jackson himself, "station/disinheritation."

Stage Two veteran Chris Bruzzini is better than ever as the lucre-loving Harpagon. He loves money alone, but he loves it with great comic passion, fear and jealousy. Bruzzini wrings laughs from the Miser's every base impulse with a battery of physical and verbal tricks.
Kyle Dickerson is engaging as Valere, the young noble who has made himself a servant in Harpagon's house in order to be near to his love, the Miser's daughter, Elise.

Jason Smith is most dudely as Cleante, Harpagon's profligate son who -- in Smith's extremely Keanu way -- finds his father's parsimony bogus in the extreme. Kristin Plonka is Mariane, the object of Cleante's affection and Harpagon's lust.

Heidi Feldkirchner is back on Two's stage for the first time in too long, and does good work as Frosine, the "woman of intrigue" whose wiles season the pot. Greg Flesher is a fine rogue as Cleante's servant La Fleche. And Thom White delivers the bitchiest Master Jacques in our experience.

Thanks to Mooney's nimble pen and cast, Stage Two's "The Miser" makes for a generous evening of theater.

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'Miser' features farcical scenes, lovely setting

By Gwen H. Jader Daily Herald Correspondent

Although written more than 300 years ago, Moliere's "The Miser" still draws laughs, as adapted and directed by Timothy Mooney.

In the Stage Two Theatre's production that runs through June 28 at the Cuneo Museum in Vernon Hills, Mooney has adapted Moliere's prose into verse.

"There were situations that I thought would respond to rhyme," Mooney says. "One in particular is when Mariane meets the Miser, Harpagon, for the first time."

While Mariane, who is in love with the Miser's son Cleante, is calling Harpagon a brute, Frosine, the matchmaker, tells him that she said that he was cute.

Veteran Stage Two actor Chris Bruzzini of Melrose Park plays the Miser. Kristin Plonka of Chicago plays Mariane and Heidi Feldkirchner of Gurnee plays the matchmaker.

Of course, Harpagon, ever ready to profit, has committed Cleante and his sister Elise to a widow and widower for money. Jason Smith of Long Grove portrays Cleante and Christine Rosencrans of Chicago portrays Elise.

"The play revolves around the Miser's confusion of romance and money," Mooney says.

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Theater review, 'The Miser'

By H. Lee Murphy
SPECIAL TO THE TRIBUNE
Tuesday, June 9, 1998

The fortunes of the perennially troubled Stage Two Theatre Company have ebbed and flowed in recent months. Earlier this season the group lost its artistic director, Timothy Mooney, and its cozy playhouse above an Italian restaurant in Highwood.

Mooney is now back, directing the premiere of his own translation of Moliere's "The Miser'' performed al fresco at the Cuneo Estate in Vernon Hills. Mooney has made something of a cottage industry of the great 17th Century French comic playwright's work. His translation of "Tartuffe'' was a hit a year ago, while a new version of "Don Juan'' has just been finished and could show up on the Stage Two schedule sometime next season.

The Mooney "Tartuffe'' is destined to reside forever in the shadow of the peerless Richard Wilbur translation. But Wilbur, working in the 1950s and '60s, never got around to "The Miser,'' Moliere's sly intrigue of love and money. In fact, no major translation, as far as it is known, has ventured so audaciously into the form employed by Mooney: He has taken Moliere's original prose and recast it as rhyming verse, requiring the painstaking creation of nearly 1,000 rhymed couplets.

This is a foolhardy experiment surely meant to fail. Yet somehow it all hangs together beautifully. The avarice of the title character Harpagon, sparring with his son Cleante for the same young woman, Mariane, gains a rhetorical sizzle in the verse format. The ingeniously constructed, teasing rhymes -- "I'll never trust that limping malefactor; Let him go to the dogs, become an actor!'' Harpagon cries as he plots his courtship -- add a rich overlay of stylistic repartee to what is otherwise merely an outrageous situation. Some purists might quarrel that Mooney has taken excessive liberties in reworking the original, but this "Miser'' really does seem to jump off the page with new energy.

But it deserves a more experienced cast. The non-Equity performers assembled for this production are a decidedly mixed lot. A grandly corpulent Chris Bruzzini cuts a wide, mirthful swath in the title role, with a mincing vanity and dazed grin as insanity unfolds all around him. Heidi Feldkirchner, meanwhile, gives a sprightly, cunning portrayal of Frosine, the local matchmaker of limitless invention.

Some of the youngest actors here have an irritating MTV twang in their delivery. As Cleante, Jason D. Smith is given to pained histrionics in a raw voice that falls somewhere in the vicinity of Matt Dillon in "The Outsiders.'' He needs far less Oklahoma and much more Versailles in his approach to the play. As his sister Elise, Christine Rosencrans yields up a dutiful portrayal that lacks fire and charisma. Kristen Plonka is so unremarkable as Mariane that one wonders why two men would be battling for her affections in the first place.

The setting for this production is a courtyard behind the sprawling Cuneo mansion, a veritable pleasure palace of broad balconies, soaring Corinthian columns and lush gardens. These are the very classical elements that the period setting requires, a stroke of good luck for a theater company with no regular home, constrained by budget and circumstances. For now, at least, Stage Two still has Tim Mooney, its greatest asset.

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