At the Moliere Theatre Festival: Comedies of Social Relevance, some of the works of the great French playwright will be plucked from the 17th century and plunked down in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
“We decided to do a transposition to take it to a different level and time period,” director and writer Abel Cornejo says. “We went line by line and adapted it to contemporary language.”
The cast and Cornejo modernized and reinvented three one-act plays by the satirist, hoping to make them resonate with today’s audiences by including references to hip-hop, yuppies, social media, valley girls, “The Love Boat,” punk hairstyles and “the artist formerly known as” Prince.
“Typically, you see a Shakespeare festival,” Cornejo says. “Well, Moliere is the Shakespeare of France. He’s funny and witty and sarcastic. And the thing about him is that he’s so relevant to today. He was very cynical of the system or people in authority.”
So a comedy such as Moliere’s “The Misanthrope,” first staged in 1666, has been compressed from five acts to one. “Now, it’s about Facebook,” Cornejo says. “And it’s an all-female cast.”
And 1650’s “La Jalousie du Barbouille” is set in the 1990s and titled "The Jealous Dude", “with hip-hop, Salt-n-Pepa and Vanilla Ice,” Cornejo says. “It’s about this … older man who wants to marry a young, pretty girl. But the young girl, she wants to go out and party all the time.”
“Les Presieuses ridicule,” from 1659, is now titled “The Two Yuppie Chicks” and is set in the 1980s. “They are very materialistic, so hello, Madonna,” the director says. “They want things, and they want guys who want things.”
Each performance features all three one-acts.
Cornejo, who is a professor of theater at Broward College, adds that “One of the common threads in almost all Moliere plays is that people are hypocrites, pretending to be someone they are not. He’s always putting the wealthy under the magnifying glass, asking, ‘What do they have that makes them so conceited?’ As much as we want to say that there is no classism in the U.S., there is.”
He went on to say that through college extra credit, open auditions and referrals, the cast is quite a mix. “It’s very multiethnic. We represent the whole South Florida; straight, gay, black, white, old, young.”
Next, he’d like to try a Moliere play in French for the Creole-speaking population in South Florida.
The Moliere Theatre Festival will take place Sept. 20-22 at World and Eye Arts Center, 109 NW Fifth St., in Fort Lauderdale. The plays will begin 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $10. Call: 954-756-1071 or go to WorldAndEye.com.