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Molière workshop draws select audience to the Hill Theater

On Saturday night the Hill Theater welcomed a unique acting experience that relied heavily on audience participation. Molière Than Thou, which was sponsored in part by the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, is a one-man play based on the works of satirical French playwright Jean-Baptiste Poquelin Molière. Timothy Mooney, the playwright and sole actor of the night, brought to life the unique comedic forms of pretension and hypocrisy that are so frequent in Molière’s works.

Molière Than Thou was not a widely attended event, but did manage to draw many people other than just Kenyon students, including Gambier families, small children and professors. Many of the students who attended the performance were taking Professor of French Mary Jane Cowles’s French Drama Workshop, which recently studied Molière.

“We studied Molière, and I’m excited to see it on stage and not just in a book,” Lindy Wittenberg ’19, who is in the French Drama Workshop course, said.

Since Cowles was fundamental in bringing this event to Kenyon, an acting workshop took place during her class and her students were privy to an early performance by Mooney. He also performed segments of Hamlet for the class, a portrayal that, much the same as Molière Than Thou, was dynamic and loud.

At his Saturday performance, Mooney entered the stage with a loud and over-dramatized stumble. He immediately broke the fourth wall by addressing the audience with a voice that filled the theater and facial expressions and hand motions so extreme that it was difficult to be bored. Mooney’s performance consisted mostly of long monologues broken up by short bits in which he addressed the crowd.

There were moments when he went so far as to welcome members of the audience to the stage, and he even stepped off the stage at one point to address a marriage proposal to a female community member sitting in the front row. This proposal came from a monologue by Molière in which a character returns for a girl whom he had long since decided to marry, and he now must convince her this marriage is the best choice. Mooney’s direct address of an audience member came as an entertaining shock to the crowd, although the addressee just shook her head.

While the expressive qualities of Mooney’s acting were certainly dynamic enough to captivate the audience’s attention, the humor largely presumed knowledge of Molière and the time period in which he wrote. Mooney had many of the Kenyon College professors laughing out loud, but a small portion of the audience wore confused expressions on their faces. The humor of this show was deeply rooted in French history, and perhaps many did not have such knowledge.

This eccentric performance of humorous classic French works was a niche event that did not attract many Kenyon students, but fans of Molière enjoyed it greatly.

When asked about the performance in comparison to the in-class workshop Ally Cirelli ’19 said, “It was exactly what I expected — loud.”

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