Northlight Theatre kicks off its thirty-third season with James Magruder’s light and lively new translation of Moliere’s satire on the love of money, “The Miser.” Contemporary tweaks made to the period comedy work well, infusing the production with energetic stage business and plenty of laughs—bawdy, albeit innocuous, double entendre abound. Rachel Anne Healy’s elegant costumes, against the backdrop of an inspired, minimal scenic design from Tim Morrison, give the production a crisp and vibrant foundation. Gene Weygandt’s Harpagon, the paranoid, greed-driven patriarch, is spry and quick on his feet; charming, even. Under Mark E. Lococo’s direction, this miser has become a genuine showman (in perhaps the most vigorous scene of the play, when his money chest is stolen, Harpagon is alone onstage, engaging the audience with a tirade reminiscent of a stand-up routine). But there is a price to be paid for this dynamism—and it comes out of the pockets of Harpagon’s children and their respective love interests (or rather those of the actors who portray them), all whom suffer under his money-grubbing thumb. These are the characters we’re supposed to be rooting for, sympathizing with, but they, their trials and their triumphs are often overshadowed by Weygandt’s feistiness, sometimes simply neglected by Magruder’s script, leaving a craving for balance. Amongst the supporting ensemble, Bob Fairbrooks and Dietrich Gray are both solidly watchable; but it’s the divine Jacqueline Williams who, with impeccable timing and delivery, is an absolute standout as Frosine, the clever matchmaker. (Valerie Jean Johnson)
At Northlight Theatre, 9501 N. Skokie, Skokie, (847)673-6300. This production is now closed.