The short compendium of scenes from Moliere, titled Jeu de Roles, compiled by the Association Chatillonnaise de Theatre Estival from Paris and presented by Alliance Francaise (Gorky Sadan, March 26), was conceived and executed in the professional manner one virtually takes for granted from Western companies, who can devote their full-time energies to theatre.

The selection no doubt aims at offering a representative sample of Moliere’s various modes of comic writing: an early farce (The Lovers’ Quarrel), two “comedy-ballets” (The Bourgeois Gentleman and The Imaginary Invalid) and one of the mature comedies of character (Don Juan). But the emphasis here shifts to the comedy-ballets, whereas all students of literature know that Moliere’s main contribution came through his comedies of character. Questionably, the ACTE does not include a single scene from his most famous creations in this genre—Tartuffe, The Misanthrope or The Miser. And even the scene from Don Juan has no connection whatsoever with the protagonist of that play.

The concept of linking the passages (delivered in their original French) with interludes spoken in English which suggest that the actor and two actresses themselves have a triangular romantic relationship cleverly adds an extra, albeit extraneous, layer of wit and entertainment to Moliere’s own lines. The trio, whose names were not made known by the organizers, manage the farcical episodes (as in the hilarious amorous tiffs of Lovers’ Quarrel) with more aplomb than the satire on bourgeois gentlemen or imaginary invalids, in which they tend to overplay the commedia dell’arte influences.

The women, especially the coquettish inamorata, perform better than the man, whose portrait of Pierrot from Don Juan falls flat because he appears not to have assimilated the long tradition of comic-pathetic Pierrots in French theatre. However, he compensates through the characterization of the hypochondriac Argan, which concludes with a takeoff on the real-life stage history of Imaginary Invalid—alone, hearing ghostly voices repeating phrases from the script, he decides to give up smoking (Moliere himself had died of a coughing fit while acting the lead).

(From The Telegraph, 23 April 1993)