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The Learned Ladies

By: Emi FeldmenStaff Writer As audience members stepped into the Black Box theatre, they felt the modern world melt away as the sound of a harpsichord’s tambré filled the room, transporting everyone back to a time of poetry, elegant clothing and “The Learned Ladies.” For anyone with a basic understanding of Molière’s work, one could only expect a plot filled with forbidden love, an unseen struggle and a surprising turn of events. However, Hofstra’s Department of Drama and Dance brought a new delightful spin to the famous French playwright’s work. Before the show began, I found myself slowly becoming immersed in the European setting I would be embarking in for the next two hours. The set design was constructed in a way which created a proscenium feel in a black box setting, which I found to be a particularly interesting use of space; but never the less was beautifully constructed. Unfortunately, this mental journey was shortly lived as five minutes before the production began, sounds of a college cast’s cheers were clearly heard throughout the theatre; serving as a harsh reminder of the acting ensemble’s age and level of professionalism. The production began with a heated dialogue between sisters Armande and Henriette, played by Corinne Mestemacher and Lizzie Parot, regarding what was truly important in the life of a lady: knowledge or a traditional woman’s duty. Through clever word choice, the opening scene received many laughs and set the stage perfectly for what was to come. From the moment Mestemacher began her opening lines, she displayed her control and understanding of her role, proving to the audience her theatrical maturity. Her character’s underlining bitterness rang through clearly, which was nicely contrasted in the second act when her more sensitive side was revealed. Parot gave an enjoyable performance, as the youngest sister, however by no means was this performance memorable. Her excessive use of facial reactions and “overacting” unfortunately upstaged her character’s performance. As the play’s action continued, The audience is introduced to Philaminte, played by senior Mary St. Angelo, and Clitandre, played by sophomore Ryan Molloy, the mother and father of the sisters. Very early on, patrons are introduced to the idea that Philaminte wears the pants in the relationship and rules the home as if she were the husband. She must approve all decisions or else her fiery temper is revealed. Such behavior is seen when the couple argues over whom that shall become Henrette’s husband, the central conflict surrounding the work. St. Angelo and Molloy truly captured the idea of Molière’s work and had a delightful chemistry on stage. St. Angelo’s commanding voice countered with Molloy’s fear and loving father-like air, the couple was extremely believable and had audiences feeling like they were witnessing a professional production. Throughout the course of the play, at times, I felt the company was “overracting” and physically acting “too big” for a black box production. Since the audience was so close to the actors, there was no need for such outlandish movement and overdone facial expressions; whether a directing choice or simply an overlook by the actors, the play felt unreal and choreographed at times. Overall, “The Learned Ladies” is a highly enjoyable production also being performed again this upcoming weekend, and is guaranteed to produce many laughs and pull at every hopeless romantic’s heartstring.

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