CULTURE

Moliere holds up the looking glass to vanity

Monsieur Jourdain returns to Athens as Moliere’s «The Would-Be Gentleman» takes the stage tonight at the Herod Atticus Theater. The production, directed by Vassilis Papavassiliou and starring popular comedian Yiannis Bezos, will tour Greece over the summer. When Moliere wrote the play, he told its directors to make sure it appealed to audiences. This is exactly what Papavassiliou has tried to do. «Like every great comedy, ‘The Would-Be Gentleman’ helps us see into ourselves,» he says. «It is like a mirror which reflects our vanity and all the airs we put on. The time in which the play is set, in relation to our time, should not fool us. Just as we should not be fooled by its sociopolitical context. «The charming tempest of the human soul and the timeless face of human weakness transcend time,» Papavassiliou continues. «A lot of things that have changed the world have happened from the time of France under Louis XIV to our democratic times. But the need for Monsieur Jourdain (and every one of us) to get out of his skin, to change his role in social comedy, was and remains very real. This is what makes us vulnerable to abuse and ridicule, but it also opens the door to understanding the bitter truth about ourselves.» Moliere wrote the play in 1670, commissioned by King Louis XIV. The playwright called it a comedy-ballet – a mixture of theater, music, song and dance that was very popular in the royal courts at the time. «The Would-Be Gentleman» is Monsieur Jourdain, a wealthy man who decides to spend his sizable fortune on making himself into a «gentleman.» «Moliere knows how to be ruthless, while simultaneously being sensitive to the pettiness of man,» says Papavassiliou, who also translated the play into Greek. «The way he presents his characters is revealing and liberating, irrespective of the historical time frame, and it is also a constant source of wisdom.» Marie-Noelle Semet designed the sets and costumes for the production, Dimitris Papadimitriou arranged the music and Haris Mandafounis the choreography. Antonis Panayiotopoulos designed the lighting. The cast includes Natalia Tsaliki, Periklis Moustakis, Eleni Kokkidou, Niki Palliraki and Ilias Zervos. «The Would-Be Gentleman» is on tonight at the Herod Atticus Theater on Dionysiou Aeropagitou Street. Get tickets at the Hellenic Festival box office (39 Panepistimiou, tel 210.928.2900) or from the theater itself.