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The Learned Ladies

The title of Moliere’s 1672 masterwork, The Learned Ladies, is heavily ironic, for the erudition of these ladies of learning is superficial at best. Chrysale’s bossy wife has established a salon of learned ladies in his household, indeed they have overrun the house. Their scholarly pose, however, serves merely to disguise their true passion, mindless social climbing, and in a maneuver familiar to fans of Moliere, they have fallen victim to a charlatan and poseur, Monsieur Trissotin. Created in the mold of Tartuffe, Trissotin plans to marry Chrysale’s daughter, and to abscond with his money, ostensibly to build his own school for women.

With only Le Malade imaginaire to follow, The Learned Ladies (Les Femmes Savantes) is among the last great works by the great comic master of the French neo-classical period. The truly learned will recall that Moliere died after collapsing onstage in a performance of his final play in 1673. (He finished the performance, God love him.)

Under the direction of Fortunato Pezzimenti, the Irish Classical Theatre company will use the celebrated Richard Wilbur translation, and has populated The Learned Ladies with a promising crew of classical actors—though I was surprised, in several instances, to see the specific assignment of roles. The company includes Kate LoConti, Diane Curley, Tim Newell, Richard Wesp, Christopher Corporandy, Chris Standart, Robert Rutland, Kelli Bocock-Natale, Josephine Hogan, the increasingly wonderful Kelly Ferguson, and Doug Crane.

The Learned Ladies will be performed at the Andrews Theatre through May 24.