It says something about the antics, insight and hilarity of Greasy Joan’s contemporary take on Molière’s “The Misanthrope” that even when I had discovered during the break that my car was missing (somewhat happy ending: it wasn’t stolen, it had been towed from the Catholic church lot behind the theater that had allowed its property to be used for the Athenaeum for decades but now wants to charge people to do so with a virtually invisible swipe machine and no signs by the spaces, but I digress, but be warned) I was so gripped that I came back to finish the show nonetheless. Of course, having a great translation is the first step, and Ranjit Bolt ensures that the rhythm and poetry of the work remain in tact, but it is the tender loving care that director Libby Ford and a strong cast bring to the work that makes this such a special experience. Kevin Cox as Alceste brings the perfect pathos to the title role, a contemporary cynicism about the world surrounding him compounded by his love for a socialite driven by gossip. As Alceste learns the cost of total honesty even at the expense of others’ feelings, the lesson that he learns about the role of proximity in coloring how we perceive those around us becomes as hard a lesson for him as it is a hysterical experience for the audience, even if the last laugh is on us, since we all suffer from the same delusion, which is exactly the point. I can’t remember the last time that I mentioned a costume designer in a review, but Lindsey Pate’s over the top, psychedelic attire for the two gossips and especially the yellow plaid suit and gold and black loafers worn by Oronte (Matthew Sherbach) while he recites his awful “Ode” with a stone face and horn-rimmed glasses, helps the comic antics of the performances immeasurably. This is a cobweb-free classic served up with such freshness, wit and style that it comes across as if it were written yesterday. (Dennis Polkow)
At the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, (312)902-1500. This production is now closed.