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Misanthrope Mishap

In response to:

Molière in New York from the December 8, 1977 issue

To the Editors:

I was grateful for Michael Wood’s fine essay (NYR, December 8) on Molière, my translations from Molière, and the recent New York productions of Tartuffe and The Misanthrope. Since Mr. Wood saw the Anspacher Theater’s Misanthrope during its preview period, may I offer a word of explanation to any of your readers who may, on his recommendation, have gone to see some later performance? [The play closed on November 27—eds.] During the previews, there were a good many radical changes made by the producer: one director was replaced by another, sets and costumes were revised, certain musical settings were deleted, music by two new composers was added. The text remained intact until the ultimate phase of these tinkerings, and I assume that Mr. Wood attended the play on an evening when Molière’s lines were said or sung in toto, and the other elements were in some fortunate balance.

Very shortly before the Misanthrope‘s press opening, the producer ordered the director to make extensive cuts in the text. I objected, of course, and since the making of unauthorized cuts was forbidden by contract, considered securing by injunction the restoration of all omitted lines—many of which were, quite simply, essential to an understanding of the play. It seemed likely, however, that such a move would cause the producer to close the show before inviting the critics to see it; out of sympathy for certain gifted and hard-working performers, I therefore limited my protest to the withdrawal of my name from all programs, advertisements, and other publicity. I have not seen the show in its present state, and hope that it may somehow have pleased its audiences; but since Molière did not write unnecessary lines, I cannot recommend it to anyone interested in a fully intelligible experience of his best play.

Richard Wilbur

Cummington, Mass.

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