Molière’s “The Learned Ladies” at Shakespeare & Co

Molière’s The Learned Ladies is a winter offering at Shakespeare & Company. Photo by Kevin Sprague.

As much as Tina Packer loves Molière’s The Learned Ladies, it has been three decades since she directed this outrageous 1672 masterwork. (In French Les Femmes savantes.) Many find the humor in it heavily ironic, at least until the plot thickens. A satire on academic pretention, female education, and préciosité, it turns out that the erudition of these ladies of learning is superficial at best.

She last tackled this play just prior to Shakespeare & Company’s first performance season in 1978, when Packer undertook the job, in conjunction with the Smith College Theatre Department where she was a guest director. The translation chosen for that production was a new English verse translation by Richard Wilbur, Smith’s then Writer-in-Residence. It is still one of the most popular translations of this classic play.

The Learned Ladies marks Packers’ first production as a director with S&Co. since helming the critically acclaimed productions of Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Joan Ackerman’s The Taster in 2010. The Learned Ladies runs February 3 through March 25, 2012 in S&Co.’s Bernstein Theatre.

The Cast

The Learned Ladies features many of S&Co’s most popular performers, including Ryan Winkles, fresh off his turn as Crumpet the Elf in The SantaLand Diaries. Other Company favorites will also be featured including Dana Harrison (War of the Worlds, As You Like It, The Real Inspector Hound), Jennie M. Jadow (As You Like It, The Amorous Quarrel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses), and Alexandra Lincoln (The Venetian Twins, The Real Inspector Hound, Les Liaisons Dangereuses).

“The energy this ensemble brings to the stage is infectious. This piece challenges all their comedic skills. To play comedy and Molière in particular, you need to vibrate at a very high frequency, moment by moment—even if your character seems calm and composed. Molière provides a feast of language and wordplay which is at the core of all the work we do here at Shakespeare & Company. – Tina Packer

Also lending their support to the cast are Enrico Spada (The Venetian Twins, Richard III, The Real Inspector Hound), Brittany Morgan (All’s Well That Ends Well, The Venetian Twins), and Kelly Galvin (The Venetian Twins, The Winter’s Tale, Les Liaisons Dangereuses). Rounding out this talented and energetic ensemble are local actor Stephanie Hedges (Five Flights and Indian Blood with Mixed Company) and several of the Company’s Education artists, including Jules Findlay, Daniel Joeck, and Ehren Remal.

As the Plot Turns

Before the world was populated by soap operas and reality shows, not to mention thousands of blogs, tweets and op-ed columns, intellectual discourse was mostly a face-to-face affair.

Cut to 17th century France and enter the literary salon of Philaminte, a place of intense discussion on matters of philosophy, literature, science, and—in true French fashion—the heart. Her daughter Henriette longs to marry her love Clitandre, but her parents and aunts are keener on the more articulate, brash, and learned Trissotin. Henriette fights for her right to be with the person she really loves, despite his lack of intellectual façade. In this ultimate clash of intellect and emotion, can the heart trump the mind?

“This play is a comedy but it’s also about the powers of the heart perverted by the arrogance of the intellect. It demonstrates that the essence of comedy is a tightly constructed story that maintains fidelity to its own internal logic—however twisted it may be. In the midst of all the chaos we find the heart of this play. I truly cannot wait for all of us to dig into this material and have a good romp. It makes for great fun in rehearsals and hopefully it will resonate onstage and with our audiences. – Tina Packer

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin aka Molière

Molière premiered The Learned Ladies on March 11, 1672 at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal in Paris. Born into a privileged upbringing with access to the king’s court, it was evident that a young Molière was more interested in poking fun at the aristocracy than becoming a member of it. A actor by trade, Molière began writing plays for the company he performed for—much like another actor turned playwright, William Shakespeare—and premiered his first play, L’Étourdi or The Blunderer in Paris in 1658.

This masterpiece of wit, comedy and high brow silliness will have an almost two month run, on the following schedule:

THE LEARNED LADIES

Friday, February 03, 2012 at 7:00 (Preview)
Saturday, February 04, 2012 at 7:00 (Preview)
Sunday, February 05, 2012 at 2:00 (Preview)

Friday, February 10, 2012 at7:00 (Preview)
Saturday, February 11, 2012 at 2:00 (Preview)
Saturday, February 11, 2012 at 7:00 (Opening)
Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 7:00

Friday, February 17, 2012 at 7:00
Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 7:00
Sunday, February 19, 2012 at 2:00

Friday, February 24, 2012 at 7:00
Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 2:00
Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 7:00
Sunday, February 26, 2012 at 2:00

Friday, March 2, 2012 at 7:00
Saturday, March 3, 2012 at 7:00
Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 2:00

Friday, March 9, 2012 at 7:00
Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 2:00
Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 7:00
Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 2:00

Friday, March 16, 2012 at 7:00
Saturday, March 17, 2012 at 7:00
Sunday, March 18, 2012 at 2:00

Friday, March 23, 2012 at 7:00
Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 2:00
Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 7:00
Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 2:00 (Closing)

Valentine’s Brunch, Ticket Information

The company offers a chance to have a special Valentine’s Day celebration at their annual Valentine’s Brunch on Sunday, February 12, where guests can enjoy a scrumptious meal before the 2pm matinee of The Learned Ladies. The brunch features romantically inspired entrees and a wonderful selection of indulgent desserts for $40, including a selection of both wines and non-alcoholic beverages. They offer a package of lunch and show On Feb. 12 for $60.00

Regular ticket prices range form $12 to $49 depending on performance date and seat location.

For tickets to all shows, you can call the Box Office today to make your reservation: (413) 637-3353, or visit www.shakespeare.org

One thought on “Molière’s “The Learned Ladies” at Shakespeare & Co

  1. Pingback: Nippertown!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s