The fiats of designers and directors have been known to sink revivals of the classics—I’ll never forget a tragic college production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set aboard a cruise ship—but even if we can’t parse the bomb-shelter set design and 1980s-pastiche costumes of Greasy Joan’s Misanthrope, they don’t detract from the impeccable comic pacing and spot-on acting in Ford’s production.
Cox, as the titular misanthrope, declares war on the niceties of society; in the face of “so good to see you,” “let’s get lunch” insincerities, his Alceste insists on fighting back, to his own detriment. Though such inanities could gain him favor in the court at Versailles, and higher ground in the lawsuits pending against him, Alceste prefers to maintain his own perceived virtues rather than condescending to societal standards. It’s too bad for him that his love, Celimene (Cares), chooses instead to fit in.
Ford’s revival demonstrates yet again, in case we hadn’t figured it out already, that Cox and Cares are actors to watch; it also features star supporting turns from Kristina Klemetti as Celimene’s long-suffering cousin and Matthew Sherbach in a stunningly hilarious, Poindexter-like outing as the wannabe poet Oronte (we only wish his character had more to do). Even if Ford hasn’t brought any new insight into Molière’s nearly 350-year-old play, she’s highlighted the reasons it still gets produced, and she’s brought to it an insanely talented cast. Sometimes, even with leg warmers and neon-tinted suit coats, that’s enough.