Moliere meets Mean Girls/High School Musical mashup: Theatre department to present classic comedy with modern twist

The Misanthrope

Hesston College Theatre is gearing up to present a classic comedy in a new and modern way with five performances of The Misanthrope Oct. 3 to 7.

Showtime is at 7 p.m. on Oct. 3 to 6, and 2 p.m. on Oct. 7. The performance will be in the Keim Center Black Box Theatre on the Hesston College campus. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students, and can be purchased in advance at the Hesston College Bookstore or by calling 620-327-8105. Any remaining tickets will be sold at the door prior to show time. The show is rated PG.

The Misanthrope is a comedy written by the French playwright Moliere in 1666 during the French restoration as a response to the hypocrisy of monarchs of the day. Featuring a “misanthrope” lead, or a person who dislikes all of humanity and avoids human society, larger than life characters illustrate human tendencies that are still common four centuries later.

Led by director Rachel Jantzi, Hesston College’s take on this classic is from the translation by Robert Cohen “with a bit of an update,” Jantzi explained.

The original French and Cohen’s translation are written in iambic pentameter and rhyme that was the popular style of the 17th century. Hesston’s version will keep the verse and translated language. It’s the setting that is the biggest change.

Moliere’s play was set in 17th century Paris in the courts of royalty. Jantzi chose to set Hesston College’s production in 21st century fictional Paris High School, home of the Monarchs.

“When I read through the play, I kept picturing it as an after school special or like the movie Mean Girls, with over the top classic high school characters,” said Jantzi. “So I thought, “Why not modernize it and bring these characters to the high school hallways?’”

To play into the set adaptation and further enforce the modern feel, Jantzi’s interpretation incorporates popular music by artists like Sia, Milky Chance, Walk the Moon and The Strumbellas. Overall, Hesston’s modernized version is rooted in teenage drama but also carries the powerful moral messages expressed in the original.

“The play comments on the crazy games that are played by these characters who are in various degrees of love and hate with one another,” said Jantzi.

Jantzi hopes the audience will mostly sit back and enjoy a fun show while maybe also taking with them some important qualities and traits to consider.

“We haven’t done a ridiculous comedy in a while, so we’re really having fun with this, and I think others will, too.”