RED BANK: GRADUATING FROM ‘SCHOOL’

School For Wives (horiz) COLORArnolphe (Robert Stanton) loses patience with his idiotic servants (Bree and Carson Elrod) in Two River Theater Company’s production of THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES, now entering its final weekend. (Photo by T.C. Erickson)

This weekend offers four final opportunities to study up on The School for Wives, the updated 17th century French comedy now onstage at Two River Theater as the opening event in Two River Theater Company’s 2014-2015 season.

Translated into English language verse by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Richard Wilbur, and directed by British actor and educator Mark Wing-Davey, the 1662 classic by the French farcemaster Molière tells the story of wealthy Arnolphe, the naïve young thing that he cultivates as his future Perfect Wife — and the ways in which the carefully micro-managed scheme backfires on the schemer — with a production design (including a whirling dollhouse of a set by Tony winner David Gallo) that’s first-rate as ever, and a central casting choice that may pop the monocles (and flip the powdered wigs) of you Moliere purists in the audience.

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RED BANK: ‘SCHOOL’ IS IN SESSION, AT TRTC

MarkWingDaveyBritish actor, director and educator Mark Wing-Davey brings a dream project to Red Bank, with a bold new realization of the 17th century comedy THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES that opens this week at Two River Theater.

When he’s donning the mortarboard of serious academia, Mark Wing-Davey serves as chair of the graduate acting program at NYU’s venerable Tisch School of the Arts. When he puts on an altogether different hat (or head), he’s the actor best identified with the role of the double-header despot Zaphod Beeblebrox, in various radio, video and stage dramatizations of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series of sci-fi satires by Douglas Adams.

An in-demand director from coast (UC Berkeley’s Pericles) to coast (the McCarter Theatre premiere of Greensboro: A Requiem with Philip Seymour Hoffman), the Brit-born Wing-Davey has been hitching a ride to Red Bank of late; reuniting with former Public Theater colleagues John Dias and Michael Hurst for a dream project of sorts: the 17th century comedy The School for Wives. The 1662 classic by the French farcemaster Molière is onstage now at Two River Theater as the first “back to school” session of the new 2014-2015 mainstage season.

The story of wealthy Arnolphe, the naïve young thing that he cultivates as his future Perfect Wife — and the ways in which the carefully micro-managed scheme backfires on the schemer — is on stage for three more preview performances (Wednesday at 1 pm and 7 pm; Thursday at 8 pm); opening on Friday night and continuing with a mix of matinee and evening shows through October 5. Stage and screen character actor Robert Stanton heads the cast as Arnolphe, with Phillipa Soo as the not-so naive Agnes, and Korey Jackson as her hopeful suitor Horace. They’ll be performing the best-known English translation of the original French text, by the Pulitzer Prize winning poet Richard Wilbur.

Check the Two River YouTube page for a video in which the director details the creation of the show’s distinctive visual conceptualization — including the “phallic” features and “pubic triangle” of the set design by Tony winner David Gallo — then take it around the corner for the redbankgreen Drama Desk conversation with Mark Wing-Davey.

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RED BANK: CURTAIN UP THIS WEEKEND

Sound SchoolLindsay Wood as Maria joins the Phoenix troupe in bringing ‘The Sound of Music’ to the Basie boards beginning this Friday — while Moliere’s ‘The School for Wives’ receives a bold new production design, as Two River Theater opens an all-new season with a Saturday night preview.

One is that family favorite that you grew up on, the one where “the hills are alive,”while the other is a new take on a theatrical classic that’s nearly old as them thar hills.

While Red Bank’s world-class professional Two River Theater Company and Red Bank’s community players Phoenix Productions would seem to approach their art from totally different places, there’s a common mission to give the audience a production that’s awesome to behold: a show that makes for the centerpiece of a memorable night out.

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