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Miser
(IS IT
THE ECONOMY,
OR IS HE JUST)
THE MISER?!


ABOUT THE PLAY

Is it the economy or is he just THE MISER? is a new adaptation of Molière’s most famous prose play (7 men, 3 women). It has all the elements of the original, and is set in a pre-20th century period, where marriages could be forced upon one’s children. It is, as in the original, about one man’s obsession over the feeling that he never has enough money, and the havoc his obsession wreaks on all around him. Several liberties have been taken with the original plot, as there are elements that need adjusting in order for the play to resonate with a modern audience. There are a few references to an “economic downturn,” and the “hard times we live in,” which, it is suggested, may account for our lead character’s constant angst. The language is accessible and in prose, though not specifically 21st century. There is one set and the classic unities have been preserved. There are also strong farcical elements, disguises, and more richly drawn characters than in the original. It is, in a nutshell, a play for our times.

 

 

CAST OF CHARACTERS

 

HARPAGON - 60s, a miser
ELISE - Early 20s, his daughter
VALERE - Harpagonís valet, in love with Elise
CLEANTE - Harpagonís son, in love with Marianne
MARIANNE - 18, the girl next door
LA FLECHE - 20s, 30s, valet to Cleante, disguises himself as a German marriage contractor
MAITRE JACQUES - Young to middle age, ze chef
FROSINE - 40-ish, a marriage broker, disguisesherself as the lisping Mme. Poquelin
MAITRE SIMON - Young to middle age, a broker, also plays Inspector Sansclou
SENOR ANSELME - The Deus ex Machina, 50s, father to both Marianne and Valere


 

SCENE SAMPLE

(

(The shabby salon of Harpagon. Sparsely furnished. One entrance SR to the front door, one entrance SL to the kitchen and other parts of the house. Entrance to the garden UC with large glass windows and a door. One old sofa with a pillow on it in the salon. Discoloration on the walls where paintings once hung. HARPAGON is discovered, DL, alone, sitting at a writing desk, with quill pen, paper, and piles of coins. He is doing the bills. He speaks alone.)

HARPAGON

Fifteen sous for the horses! The horses!? What are they eating!? Gilded oats!? Ridiculous. Six, and not a penny more. (He counts out a few coins.) Wages, the cook. Why do we need a cook? My daughter, my son, my cook-- all these people underfoot, depending on me for their livelihood! Expecting money every time they lift a spoon. They’re going to break me, all of them! Not to mention my ungrateful spoiled children who want things, things, things! And I’m the supplier. We won’t make it through the day with these bills. (Looks through list.) Shoes resoled? Oh, yes, mine. (He counts out the coins and places them with the others.) My son would just go and buy a new pair. My son has to have a valet! He can’t put his own clothes on!? (Checks off the list.) Well, that’s it. And we’ve got some left over. But it’s never enough. Precious little. God knows we’re going to need it. But it’s not enough! I’ve got to make more. How can I make more? Who makes more out there? Who always has enough money? Hah! The blood-sucking moneylenders! If I want to have enough, I have to become one of them! It’s as simple as that. I’ve got to find someone to help me get a money-lending business going. Who do I know? Hah! Send someone to fetch him. Valere! Valere!

(No response)

Where can he be off to? Where is everybody when I need them!? La Fleche!? LA FLECHE!!?? I told my son that valet of his was a good-for-nothing, but did he listen!? Jacques! Jacques!!??

(JACQUES comes bolting into the room, apron on, slapping his chef’s hat on.)

MAITRE JACQUES

Oui, monsieur! Shall I prepare un diner!?

HARPAGON

No, no no. I want you to go on an errand.

MAITRE JACQUES

Oh, for some cutlets? Some fromage?  Shall I bring ‘ome somesing speciale for our diner?

HARPAGON

No, no no! Your vegetable soup is perfectly fine.

MAITRE JACQUES

Oui, monsieur. But I make eet every night.

HARPAGON

And you’ll go on making it every night, as long as we have vegetables from the garden.

Here, take this note to a Maitre Simon at that address, and come back with an answer.

MAITRE JACQUES

Oui, monsieur.

 (He starts to go, dejected.)

Are you sure you don’t want...

HARPAGON

I’M SURE!

(MAITRE JACQUES goes. HARPAGON puts his coins into a cashbox, locks it, puts the key in his pocket, looks around the room, starts for the garden, then hears the offstage voices of ELISE and VALERE.)

STAY OUT! OUT!

(The voices stop abruptly.)

Can’t let them see the cashbox. Can’t let anyone know where I hide it. They’d rob me blind. DON’T ANYONE COME IN HERE, DO YOU HEAR ME!  Not to worry, nobody will find it where I’ve buried it. Who would think of looking in the garden!? That’s right—grow your own vegetables, it’s much cheaper. And they grow so much faster and larger with gold under them!

(He exits upstage center into the garden, which can be only partially seen from the audience. LA FLECHE enters from behind the screen.)

LA FLECHE

Screens are very useful things. You can learn so much. I think I’ll hold on to that information for a while. I have a feeling it will come in handy.