Acting out: New company to bring French playwright to Prospect Park

Acting out: New company to bring French playwright to Prospect Park
Moliere in the Park

Move over Shakespeare — now there’s something Molière!

A new theater company hopes to boost the work of 17th-century French playwright Molière by launching annual productions of his plays in Prospect Park. Molière in the Park will kick off with a fund-raising performance on May 18, followed by two free readings of “The Misanthrope” at the park’s LeFrak Center. The woman behind the series said she wants to bring some fresh dramatics to Brooklyn’s Backyard — and the French satirist is perfect for these fraught political times.

“I live very close to the park, and I always thought, why doesn’t this park have its own free summer theater festival?” said founder Lucie Tiberghien, who lives in Prospect Heights. “I think Molière plays ask a lot of pertinent questions about who we are as a people and as a society, and our power structures.”

The comedy of manners follows Alceste, the titular “misanthrope,” who refuses to conform to the ways of upper-class society, an attitude that complicates his relationship with Célimène, the refined woman he loves. The reading will remain true to the original, translated text, but Tiberghien plans to focus on Célimène — played by “Orange is the New Black” actress Samira Wiley — and to emphasize her perspective, which often gets overshadowed by Alceste’s ranting and raving, she said.

“I feel like the play is always about him, but the character of Célimène is extraordinarily important,” Tiberghien said. “Whether this is seen through the lens of gender or race, your ability to be vocal and criticize, the way that Alceste does in the play, is very attached to your level of privilege and power.”

Molière may be less known to American audiences than Shakespeare, but his lessons are just as universal, said the artistic director. For instance, “The Misanthrope” offers an important lesson in understanding other people’s perspectives, Tiberghien said.

“What’s great about the play is that it presents all these different points of view and forces you to think through where you stand, and where other people stand,” she said.

The director aims to stage a full Molière production each year, and hopes the shows will bring Brooklynites of all types together to take in the stories.

“I like the idea of people coming together to meet each other and have a conversation and laugh,” she said. “I think laughter is huge — there’s a community aspect to it that I’m really excited by, and I think Brooklyn is so rich in people and culture and diversity.”

“The Misanthrope” at the LeFrak Center at Lakeside (171 E. Drive in Prospect Park, enter on Ocean Avenue between Parkside Avenue and Lincoln Road, www.moliereinthepark.com). May 18 at 7 p.m. $150. May 19–20 at 7 p.m. Free.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Leading lady: Actress Samira WIley of “Orange is the New Black” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” will read the role of Célimène in Molière’s “The Misanthrope” later this month in Prospect Park.
Moliere in the Park