There are old stories that never fail to impress no matter how many times they are told. “Cecile” by Jean Anouilh (which was written in 1954) is a great example of such story. Translated and directed by Victoria Crutchfield for Planet Connnections Theatre Festivity and presented at The Gene Frankel Theatre, this one-act play was entertaining and at the same time, it gave the audience great quotes and situations to remember and think about later.
The play started with a prolonged introduction that included nothing else but Araminthe (Lily Warpinski) doing her make-up for about 3-5 minutes, accompanied by lively classical music. Long prologues tend to confuse the viewers, and therefore, during the introduction, which could definitely be shortened with little or no damage to the idea of the play, the audience members were still whispering to each other, as though they didn’t understand that the action began.
After the introduction was played, the actress disappeared behind the curtain, and characters started coming out scene after scene. We learned that Araminthe was a governess in the house of Monsieur Orlas (Ben Leasure), “a man who is almost 40 with one foot in the tomb,” and that he was in love with her, the girl only six years older than his own daughter, Cecile (Ariel Seidman-Wright). Cecile, in her turn, was also in love with Le chevalier (Kyle Nunn), but their romance was not approved of by either of their fathers. Le chevalier kept repeating that he was crazy about Cecile, but he still flirted with Araminthe and even thought about kidnapping both his beloved and her pretty governess. Intrigues that were weaved together in the style of Moliere’s farce didn’t let the audience stop smiling and enjoying the cunning comedy.
As the most important character in the play, Araminthe definitely stole the show. The heroine was an example of softness and wit in a woman. She was perfectly able to let Orlas know that his feelings were mutual, but stayed an honorable woman who was not satisfied with becoming nothing more but his mistress. Being in love herself, she sympathized with the love of Cecile and le chevalier, and she was inclined to do her best to help them unite. She was the one character who put everyone together in order to clarify what others felt and kept to themselves, which, of course, eventually led to happy ending. Moreover, this brilliant heroine was played very well, with energy and flirting and changing faces along with her mood, which made Warpinski the audience’s absolute favorite. Even though other actors were great performers as well, this girl’s acting skills definitely stood out.
In addition to the theme of love, the play concentrated on fathers and daughters, which included both Cecile’s and Araminthe’s fathers, who were going through essentially same problems. The cutest moment of the performance was when Cecile and her father were communicating through the Internet being in the same room, which showed the audience how too much technology often widens the existing gap between people. This episode made the play sound very contemporary, even though the costumes and the music were not modern.
Despite the serious content behind the farce, what made play truly great was the comical element. The characters acted so ridiculously and attempted to cover their real motives so desperately that audience could not help laughing from times to times. In one of the scenes, le chevalier picked up oranges from the tree while talking to Araminthe, and even when she was gone, he kept munching on oranges and took more of them with him on his way out hoping that no one would notice.
A wonderful piece of a brilliant playwright, “Cecile” stayed in the audience’s memory as a bright and positive performance that was ended with everyone’s happiness but le chevalier’s, as he was handcuffed to the orange tree, and he wasn’t even able to pick up any more oranges with his hands behind the tree. The piece was playful and amusing till the final, and it was overall nice to see that Moliere’s style is still alive and very much loved by contemporary theater-goers.