School of Fine Arts and Masquers Present "The Grouch"

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Fairmont State University Masquers theatre group and the School of Fine Arts will present the play “The Grouch” by Menander on the Wallman Hall stage.

Directed by Jeffrey Ingman, performances will be at 7:30 p.m. April 24-27. Tickets are $12 for adults. Admission is free to FSU and Pierpont Community & Technical College students. To order tickets, call the Box Office at (304) 367-4240 or order online at www.fairmontstate.edu/tickets.

The cast includes Craig Birkmeyer as Pan, the god and Festival Icon; James Wilson as Sostratos, the young man in love; Tyler Kovar as Getas, servant to Sostratos; Kurtis Dennison as Knemon, the grouch; Meri Titus as Filomena, Knemon’s daughter and half-sister to Gorgias; Rennes Carbaugh as Gorgias, half-brother of Filomena; Tyler Johnson as Daos, servant to Gorgias; Madison Whiting as Sikon, Kaliape’s hired cook for Festival; Rob Sundin as Simikhe, Knemon’s slave; Suzie Hall as Kaliape, Sostratos’ mother; Erika Johnson as Myrrhine, Gorgias’ mother and Knemon’s former wife; and Camma Duchaine and Erika Johnson as Nymphs, servants to Pan.

Menander is the most well-known playwright of New Comedy, and yet he was virtually unknown to the modern world until fragments of his plays were discovered in 1906. It was not until 1957 that the only surviving full manuscript, “The Grouch” was discovered in a private collection in Geneva. Its formulaic plot structure has influenced comedy throughout the ages even into modern television sitcoms, which were a massive influence on this adaptation of “The Grouch” by Jeffrey Ingman.

Ingman’s adaptation has captured the essence of New Comedy and incorporated various styles of comedy throughout the ages. Some of the most notable styles are Commedia dellëArte, Farce (particularly in the style of Moliere) and the flavor and rhythm of the 1970s. Ingman utilized the broad physical humor, acrobatics, mask style and lazzi of Commedia dellëArte. Lazzi are jokes or funny interludes the performers, particularly the Zanni or slaves, would add into performances as Commedia was based almost entirely on improvisation. Throughout the play, Ingman has added lazzi rooted in both word play and physical humor to enhance an already thrilling and hysterical show, and show the flexibility and applicability of Menanderís piece; this is the same style of word play and comedy utilized in “Monty Python.” The story and characters can easily be transplanted into any era in theatre, and the audience would instantly relate to and understand what was happening on stage; that is the brilliance of Menander’s plot structure and use of character types. Both Commedia and New Comedy also utilized masks. Masks were an integral part of Greek New Comedy, and each mask represented a specific character type; the audience would have been familiar with this convention and could therefore tell exactly what character type they were seeing as soon as the actor entered. The style of masks changed from full face masks in New Comedy to half masks in Commedia.

With the changes and adaptations, “The Grouch” has the rhythm and movement of a Farce, an extremely fast paced and frenetic genre of theatre focusing on absurd situations, realistic characters and, in Moliere’s case, constant, flowing movement. This adaptation of “The Grouch” combines the balletic ideas of rhythm and tempo Moliere utilized with the specificity of character required in New Comedy and Commedia, as well as the broad physical comedy popularized by the “Three Stooges.”

“The Grouch,” and all of Menander’s works, have influenced comedy from Commedia all the way into the modern world of television, and one of the main inspirations for this adaptation was the similarity between “The Grouch” and a classic 1970s sitcom. “Three’s Company,” for example, utilizes physical humor, domestic disputes and stock characters; Stanley Roper, the landlord is the grouch, and Jack takes on the role of the lover, combined with the classic Commedia character Harlequinn, a zanni responsible for much of the physical humor. The 1970s is the perfect modern era for The Grouch, as the frenetic energy of disco, the revolutionary atmosphere, the bright and crazy fashion trends and the freedom provide the ideal atmosphere for a Farce about two young lovers pushed together by a god and overcoming their crazy families to be together.