Theatre review: Civic Theatre’s Monte Cristo tells tale of revenge

by Jacqueline Goldman

Lights up, a man is center stage dressed in prison garb, collapsed on the floor of what appears to be a prison cell. The warden storms in and taunts the prisoner, as if he weren’t already mentally and physically damaged beyond repair. What seems to be a hopeless and dying prisoner later becomes the rich and all-powerful Count of Monte Cristo.

How do the circumstances change so drastically? Well if I told you there would be no reason for you to go see the play for yourself.

If you are anything like me, you will have seen the movie (the newer American version or the French version) and have high expectations of adventure, wealth and revenge. The show will provide exactly what you seek, only better.

As one audience member commented during intermission, “Wow, the plot is so good I can’t imagine why I fell asleep when I watched the movie!” Yes, the show is that good.

The actors are not getting paid, they are doing this voluntarily. That means they are acting in the production on top of other life commitments. It is not their major, it is not their occupation; it is a passion they are pursuing although they are already busy. Some of the cast may not be very strong, but there are a few gems to be found.

The actor Paul Villabrille, who plays Edmond Dantès, does a fantastic job portraying the revenge-seeking, heartbroken, injured and betrayed protagonist. The smirk he carries while talking to his unfaithful, greedy friends in his persona of the Count of Monte Cristo is priceless. You can almost feel the anticipation of revenge building up inside him. Numerous times you want to jump on stage yourself and punch Dantès’ friends in the face, but you know via that smirk that Dantès has a far greater plan to ruin them.

In fact, by the end of the play I found myself feeling rather disgusted with realizing in my own life how I had dropped any moral compass. I had decided that revenge was completely justifiable instead of the “turn the other cheek” attitude I should be carrying.

The play is also great if you wish to get out any inner rage and live vicariously through Dantès.

Although revenge and justification through vengeance seem like the main theme, the deeper more thought-provoking theme of forgiveness presents itself toward the end when Dantès finally confronts his fiancée from before his imprisonment. By the way, his fiancée has now moved on to someone else, Monsieur Crappy Friend (or Fernand Mondego, played by Dalin Tipton), who was primarily responsible for Dantès’ wrongful imprisonment. Feel that anger rising?

So, all in all the play is complex, but not in the way you expect. Also, do not presume to already know what is going to happen just because you have seen the movie, because you’ll be caught off guard. Trust me. I left feeling surprised and confused. Once again Hollywood has lied to me.

There are student prices for all shows ($18), so do not let the fear of an expensive ticket stop you. Plus, after you see the show you can pretend to be all “cultured” and such.

The Count of Monte Cristo is playing at Spokane Civic Theatre until March 18.

Contact Jacqueline Goldman at jgoldman13@my.whitworth.edu.

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