More than a hundred years before there was a United States, Jean Baptiste Poquelin, aka Moliere, debuted his L'Etourdi in Lyons with himself in the lead role of Mascarille. The work brought his company, The Illustrious Theatre, back to Paris and even played the Petit-Bourbon, sponsored by the King's brother.
Popular in Moliere's lifetime and afterwards (author Victor Hugo was a fan), L'Etourdi saw few English translations - one by John Dryden in 1667, one in the 18th century and one in the 19th. But no one attempted to do what Moliere translator and poet Richard Wilbur has done for L'Etourdi's first bow on this continent -- translated the work into verse.
Now called The Bungler, this new version opens its American premiere Sept. 27 at the Long Wharf Theatre with the company's artistic director Doug Hughes at the helm. Performances began Sept. 20 for a run through Oct. 22.
There's love at stake in The Bungler, as young nobleman Lelie falls for a gypsy slave Celie, unattainable except through the machinations of his clever valet, Mascarille. As the servant defeats other suitors, greedy old men and even fate itself, he realizes the greatest hamper to the lovers is Lelie's own interference.
Jeff Weiss stars as Mascarille with Jeremy Shamos (The Alchemist) as Lelie and Heidi Dippold as Celie. Also in the cast are Paul Blankenship (Ergaste), Danyon Davis (Leandre), J.R. Horne (Anselme), T.R. Knight (Andres/Messenger), Frank Raiter (Trufaldin), Tari Signor (Hippolyte) and Christopher Wynkoop (Pandolfe). Designing The Bungler are Neil Patel (sets), Pat Collins (lights), Linda Fisher (costumes) and Matthew Mezick (sound). Louis Rosen will compose an original score.
Tickets are $45-$20. For reservations, call (203) 787-4282.The Long Wharf Theatre is on the web at http://www.longwharf.org.
-- By Christine Ehren