THE MISANTHROPE, Stage Two Theatre Company, at Cuneo Museum and Gardens. A lone voice among the rich and powerful in a social setting laden with hypocrisy, opportunism, and duplicity vows to speak only with the utmost honesty. Election-year politics? Country club shenanigans? Close--a new translation of Moliere's famous court comedy. The destructively candid Alceste (Timothy Mooney), pitted against the ladies and gentlemen of polite society who bow and scrape while bashing one another behind the scenes, is asked by a high-ranking official for an honest critique of his poetry. Alceste responds with a string of mockeries and brazen insults that throws him way out of social favor, then finds himself competing with the wounded official for the affections of the clever, coquettish Celimene (Lisa Beacom). More interesting than the outcome of this love triangle, however, is the question it inspires: how much honesty is the best policy?
An ambitious undertaking, Mooney's adaptation (his 19th Moliere translation to date--only 13 more to go) employs clear, accessible language without compromising the meaning or too much of the play's 17th-century decorum. For example, "The right to storm and rage at human evil / And send the race of mankind to the devil" becomes "I'll use this court proceeding as the ticket / To tell all of mankind just where to stick it!" The cast does equally well at balancing centuries-old manners and contemporary vocabulary, though Beacom could stand to soften her physical and vocal demeanor. --Kim Wilson