Cleveland Shakespeare Festival's Free Performances of 'The Learned Ladies' Are a Treat

Bring a blanket or folding chair and enjoy

click to enlarge Cleveland Shakespeare Festival's Free Performances of 'The Learned Ladies' Are a Treat
Photo Credit: Bill Thornhil

If you've been simmering in the fetid brew of the January 6th Congressional hearings, following how our democracy was nearly overthrown by a cadre of fascists led by our former President, you may long for a frothy, humorous break. And the Cleveland Shakespeare Festival is offering just such a treat with their free (yes, free) production of The Learned Ladies by Moliere.

This translation of Moliere by Timothy Mooney employs amusing verse to mount a satire of French pomposity and intellectual pretension. And director Keira McDonald keeps the giggles going with some prop humor and other stage business that adds to the fun.

The brief (less-than-an-hour) play revolves around Henriette (Jennifer Jarvis) and Clitandre (Troian Soo), who are hot for each other and eager to get married. Her father Chrysale (a henpecked Chris Bizub) and uncle Ariste (Reed Kruger) are on board, but hold on. Three female members of Henriette's family—domineering wife and doting mom Philamente (a bracing Maggie Rhodes), her elder daughter Armande (Maddy Cox), and aunt Belise (Mia Randabaugh, who camps it up with verve)—have a different beau in mind for her.

That trio of "learned" ladies, hot on the trail of culture, have been gob-smacked by the poetry of Trissotin (Alex Srrzemilowski), a local scholar whose reflexive bowing and cheesy rhymes have left them limp with adoration. And since Philamente leads her hubby around by the nose, the early wagering is on Trissotin beating out Clitandre for Henriette's hand.

Although uneven at times, the players generally have a blast with their one-dimensional characters. This includes Khaki Hermann, double-cast as a smart-aleck serving wench as well as another poet, Vadius, who shows up to challenge Trissotin. If there is one small complaint about Moliere's script, it's that he didn't stretch it another few minutes to present a poetic showdown between those two. Also, Austin Patterson handles his three small roles with specificity.

This is the second and last of CleveShakes' summer tours under the artistic direction of Dusten A. Welch, in which they visit various parks and community centers in the area for one night only. Each performance is free, just bring a blanket or a folding chair. For their schedule of touring locations, visit cleveshakes.org.

The Learned Ladies
Through August 7 at multiple locations, free of charge, 440-794-1273, [email protected]

About The Author

Christine Howey

Christine Howey has been reviewing theater since 1997, first at Cleveland Free Times and then for other publications including City Pages in Minneapolis, MN and The Plain Dealer. Her blog, Rave and Pan, also features her play reviews. Christine is a former stage actor and director, primarily at Dobama Theatre...
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