UH Putting a Texas Twist on 'The Miser'

School of Theatre & Dance Performing Revamped Premiere of Moliere’s Classic

Moliere’s “The Miser” has been adapted for a variety of settings. Variations of this comedy have been set in Greece, the Netherlands, Indonesia, the United Kingdom and India among other places. For its University of Houston performances, the story of “The Miser” is based in the Bayou City.

UH’s School of Theatre & Dance will deliver this Texas-sized version of “The Miser” April 24 – May 3 in the University’s Jose Quintero Theatre (Entrance 16 off Cullen Boulevard). Tickets are $20 and $10 (for students and seniors). They are available by calling 713-743-2929. Tickets also can be purchased through the online box office.

Performance times and dates are as follows:

  • 8 p.m., April 24, 25, 28, 29, 30; May 1, 2
  • 2 p.m., April 26 and May 3

For this Lone Star edition of “The Miser,” director Sara Becker is working with playwright John Strand, who had previously adapted the play. He reworked the script for a contemporary Houston setting, so audiences will experience a premiere performance of this revamped classic.

“The Miser” tells the story of penny-pinching widower Harpagon, who wants to marry the much younger Marianne. He’s unaware that his would-be bride is in love with his son Cléante. When he’s not trying to arrange his own nuptials, Harpagon is trying to marry his daughter Élise to a rich suitor. She, however, only has eyes for the not-so-wealthy Valère.

The cast will include guest artists Todd Waite (as Harpagon) and David Rainey (as Anselm) from Houston’s acclaimed Alley Theatre Company. Other cast members include Mike Lee as Cléante; Suzelle Palacios as Marianne; Christina Kelly as Elise; and Mateo Mpinduzi-Mott as Valère.

Houston is a perfect setting for “The Miser,” said Becker, assistant professor at UH’s School of Theatre & Dance. The city’s diversity lends to the themes presented in the play, as well as its street-smart comic appeal.

“Houston has a mix of people. Some are rich. Some are poor. It’s cosmopolitan and international, but it’s very much a part of Texas,” she said. “All of these pieces fit in with our version of ‘The Miser,” which has characters from different backgrounds…rich people, college students, immigrants.”

The set will reflect Houston, but also tips its “cowboy” hat to the play’s French roots with chateau-style architecture, Becker added.

Moliere’s “The Miser” premiered in the late 15th century and remains a classic example of “Commedia dell’arte.” Before retooling his script for the Houstonized version of this play, Strand has placed “The Miser” in a 1980s Reagan-era setting. Regardless of the era or location, it’s still a timeless comedy, Becker said.

“The style that Moliere was working in is the precursor to our modern sit-com,” she said. “If Moliere were alive today, he'd likely be writing for ‘The Simpsons’ and watching ‘Looney Tunes’”

The University of Houston School of Theatre & Dance produces pre-professional plays, dance concerts, studio productions, and school shows through the Theatre for Young Audiences program. Performances are delivered in the Wortham Theatre and the Quintero Theatre on the main campus. The school offers bachelor’s and master's degrees in theater and teacher certifications in dance and theatre. Its graduate program consists of a Master of Arts in theatre and Master of Fine Arts in theatre with specializations in acting, technical production and design.  Alumni include actors Jim Parsons, Dennis Quaid, Brett Cullen and Robert Wuhl. Faculty includes Tony Award-winning producer Stuart Ostrow, Tony-nominated designer Kevin Rigdon and award-winning playwright and screenwriter Theresa Rebeck. Among the greats who have taught at the school are Edward Albee, Lanford Wilson, Mark Medoff, Sir Peter Hall, Jose Quintero, Patsy Swayze and Cecil Pickett. In 2012 and 2013, the school was named “Best College Theater” in the Houston Press Theater Awards. For details on UH's School of Theatre & Dance, visit www.theatredance.uh.edu.