This year’s production is “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme“ or “The Bourgeois Gentleman.” The play, written by Molière in 1670, is about one man’s efforts to rise above his station in life.
“‘Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme’ is Molière’s most uproarious and light-hearted work,” said Director Dolly Guinther. “It was created as entertainment for the court of Louis XIV, and its combination of 'commedia dell’arte' silliness and social satire is timeless."
The play is a satirical story of social climbing and the bourgeois personality, poking fun at the pretentious middle-class and the vain aristocracy. Monsieur Jourdain tries to move up from his life as a merchant to life as an aristocrat, and along the way audiences get to meet a hysterical cast of characters.
The cast includes lead actor Jim Chamberlain as Jourdain, Debbie Smith as his wife, Terri Matassov as the Marchioness, who is the object of his affections, and Ted Birke as the impoverished Count whose favor he is courting.
Rounding out the cast is Natalie Lombana as the Jourdains’ daughter, Ludovic Coutaud as her suitor, Mike Miller as the ever-reliable manservant, Louise Guinther as the saucy maid, and soprano Shannon O’Rourke in the musical interludes.
Chamberlain, a resident of Forest Hills for 34 years, has been working with The Gingerbread Players for decades and enjoys the opportunity to play the “impossible character who upended his family.”
There are impressive feats that Chamberlain must accomplish during the play, including being on stage for more than an hour straight, which requires tremendous stamina and memorization.
But while learning to play the lovable buffoon, Chamberlain and Guinther came to the realization that they should make certain minor adjustments to the play’s plot.
“It has a nice ending,” he insisted.
For the most part, however, producer Guinther’s English version of the play stays true to the original.
“Shakespeare could be funny, when everybody understand the lines every other paragraph or so, but this play is actually very funny,” Chamberlain said.
He added that The Gingerbread Players is much more than a community theater. For many actors, it’s a family affair, including for himself, as his children started taking part as early as eight years old.
Chamberlain pointed out that many of The Gingerbread Player’s performances are classics rather than newer material. The company’s fall programming is geared towards appealing to the local adult community with plays by Oscar Wilde, Bernard Shaw, Shakespeare and Molière.
"Broadway productions of classics such as Molière tend to be few and far between these days, and the prices can be prohibitive,” said Guinther. “Also, in this era of ‘concept’ productions, what one sees is often an update or twist on the piece.
“The Gingerbread Players offer traditional productions that give a faithful impression of what these great playwrights had in mind, right here in your neighborhood, and at bargain prices,” she added. “We’re giving local audiences a chance to discover why the masterworks have endured.”
Performances are on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 2:30 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 5 at 2:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 11, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 12, at 2:30 p.m. There is a suggested price of $15. For reservations, call (718) 268-7772 or visit gingerbreadplayers.org.