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'Spice' girls flavor 'Miser'

web 4 19 Miser
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Women of ‘The Miser’ – Lee Ann Manley (Frosine), Kallie O’Connor (Elise) and Jessi May Stevenson (Marianne).

Being a woman in 19th century France came with its burdens, but you won’t feel that while watching “The Miser,” running two more weekends at the Art Center Theater. Covering a broad range of topics from greed, love and familial obligation, the play is all done in the light form of Commedia dell’arte, a physical comedy that loosens the grip of any seriousness that might come from the relationships between the characters.
“It is freeing to practice a form of comedic acting that is larger than life,” Said Kallie O’Conner who plays Elise. “It verges on madness. What a gift it is to be able to represent life's absurdities and cruelties comically so we may laugh instead of cry.” 
Life is full of ludicrousness and “The Miser,” a raucous comedy, shows just how much. Taking a page right out of Moliere’s playbook acts like “Punch and Judy,” or “The Three Stooges,” are the direct descendants of the Commedia dell’arte, making us laugh even when dealing with real-life issues. 
“As an artist, being able to poke fun at greed and its dirty underbelly is a form of resistance,” Said Jessi May Stevenson who plays Marianne. “But this resistance is silly fun, something else we need more than ever today. Playing a lover in Commedia dell'arte is always ripe for comic possibility, the urgency that passion and love provide. They are inexperienced and ridiculously over the top yet completely sincere—a combination that both charms and exasperates.”
The women of “The Miser” must navigate a world where choices are thrust upon them, even though their hearts lie in a different direction. Moliere’s brand of comedy brings a levity, almost a ridiculousness to the follies that unfold during the play, leaving behind an enduring classic that can be molded into any era and still have audiences connect to the story. 
“I've always loved ‘timeless’ plays as they invite us to identify with universal human issues and the plight of the characters enduring them,” said Lee Ann Manley who plays Frosine. “For instance, most folks can identify with the timeless issue of forbidden love due to the familial association and or race, as in ‘Romeo and Juliet.’”
“The Miser” runs for two more weekends through April 28, with Friday and Saturday night performances at 7:30 and Sunday matinees at 2. Box office opens 45 minutes before each show. Ticket prices $25 general admission, $20 seniors and Art Center members, and $10 for those under 25. Tickets may be purchased online at OjaiACT.org or call 805-640-8797.
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