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November 1, 2004 // UPDATED 4:31 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Anna Pratt
Anna Pratt

'The Miser'

Harpagon The Miser's house needs some TLC. But not even Home & Garden Television's best "radical makeover" carpenters could properly address these warped floorboards and shoddy walls. The real problem is that the dilapidated condition of The Miser's home reflects the ailing condition of his heart, which is definitely a fixer-upper.

Paralleling Harpagon's abscessed family life, the house acts as its own character, visually disintegrating throughout the course of the play, "The Miser."

Harpagon is too cheap to repair what's broken in either place.

He'll do anything for a buck -- even go so far as to negotiate a price for his too-expensive children, whom he's trying to unload/marry off. For the sake of some spare change, Harpagon encourages matches made on Wall Street, devoid of romance.

Yet, despite his abominable chintziness, we end up feeling sorry for this sad clown as the people around him/his victims become increasingly resentful . . . and ridiculous.

This adaptation of Moliere's 18th century farcical comedy -- a collaboration of Theatre de la Jeune Lune, the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass. and the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Ky. -- is an insightful portrayal of financial ruin as it wipes out bank accounts and families.

Thursday-Sunday thru Jan. 2, call for times, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, 105 N. 1st St. $20-$30. 333-6200.

Unlikely monsters

The family-friendly atmosphere of a TGI Fridays-type restaurant is the ironic setting for this story about four off-kilter waitresses. They seem like pleasant enough people to an unsuspecting audience: Each waitress endears herself to us with her offbeat sense of humor and quick-on-her feet service. But as we enter their inner lives, we discover that the waitresses secretly harbor aching regrets and other pains that lead them to unthinkable measures.

Only from this empathic starting point can we begin to really understand these women's desperate actions because it's so easy to pin stomach-turning crimes on prototypical criminals.

That's where the show gets really serious -- opening up the taboo topic of infanticide. "TGIF or Who Is Monster Mom" gently reveals that the people we encounter on a daily basis, polite people who don't resemble the rough characters on "America's Most Wanted" may become so troubled that they're capable of killing their newborn children.

"The play is meant to make people recognize that infanticide isn't [always committed by] some crazy woman who just throws her kids over a bridge for no reason -- it could be your neighbor," said Malia Cole artistic director of the Gaia Collective.

The Gaia Collective, a local troupe that tells women's stories, co-commissioned the play with gray space Performance Company, which seeks to educate and engage people in human

rights activism.

"Monster Mom" was written by local award-winning playwrights Janet Allard (who has also been commissioned for the Guthrie Theater, 725 Vineland Place, and the Children's Theatre Company in Southwest Minneapolis) and Lisa D'Amour (a former Jerome Fellow who has also been commissioned by the Guthrie).

Organizers and playwrights hope to call attention to a little known fact: children in the United States are most likely to be the victims of homicide victims in the first year of life. Many infants needlessly die at the hands of mothers who need mental health care and rehabilitation. (Fathers kill their children, too, but usually when they're a little older.)

With all of this in mind, surely we can begin to make a dent in these frightening statistics, the dramatic troupe hopes. They won't expect you to leave the show without having the opportunity to at least mull over the subject a little more (rather than going straight home to stare vacantly at the ceiling) and participate in some group therapy. Post-show discussions between cast and audience will be led by local health and women's rights representatives.

Nov. 5-20, Thursday-Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m., The Minnesota Opera Center, 620 N. 1st St. $12. 210-6834.

Anna Pratt can be reached at