An ethical lesson for audiences in Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes 

Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes – Andrée LANTHIER

From Nov. 3-27, the Centaur Theatre Company presents an award-winning comedy on teacher-student relations from alternate perspectives 

Hannah Moskovitch’s fantastic piece is about writing professor Jon Macklem (played by Marcel Jeannin), freshly separated from his wife. He develops a relationship with his 19-year-old student Annie (played by Inès Defossé), who also happens to be his neighbour from across the street. Aware and reluctant of his wrongful actions, the protagonist slowly succumbs to his temptations. 

The audience watches as the professor internally struggles with the morality of his actions all while narrating in the third person with an ironic dry tone. “ The audience is a bit more forgiving, and you get into his story at the beginning,” said Jeannin. “A little bit like Walter White, where you’re sort of on board with him, because he knows what he’s doing is wrong. He has the choices, but you always see him making the wrong move, but regretting it.”

It wasn’t hard, however, for the actor to portray a hateable yet torn anti-hero. “You never want to judge a character, as an actor,” said Jeannin. “The audience can do it. What’s this guy’s job? He’s there to tell the story, and the playwright made him conscious that what he was doing was wrong.”

Jon Macklem, for Jeannin, was interesting yet challenging. His interest for the character was sparked immediately when the script was handed to him. “At one point I thought it was too one-sided against him,” said the actor.  “I was a little scared: I wasn’t sure. I was given the first draft. I read it and it was not perfect. I said there was something here, and I was curious to see the following one.” 

Guided by the brilliance of director Eda Holmes, the physicality and movement in the piece was accentuated by her vision, which was guided by her dance formation in ballet. The play itself was not especially designed for dance and movement, but there were many clown-esque moments between the characters, punchlines delivered through physicality, in which Jeannin did a fantastic job. At times, the movement took the form of a ballad between the two, bringing metaphor into their sensuality.

As a public entertainer and artist, Jeannin was careful to analyze the ethics of the new play, which premiered in 2020. He did so to make sure that participating in a play with such a heavy subject and controversial angle was not in fact distasteful, and upsetting to audiences. “When they gave it to me, I read it. I gave it to a thirty-year-old woman and said ‘what do you think?’ She said it was funny.”

“The play weighs it so that you sympathize with the guy to a point,” added the actor. “But in the end, what he does is wrong.” The play is fitting for all audiences who could be interested in watching a play on dark subject matter interpreted in a tasteful comedic manner, riveting and engaging from beginning to end. All in all, Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes is a great production, and a fresh point of view on such a hot topic amid the #metoo movement. 

It’s from his point of view but from her point of view. If the audience isn’t on board with him at the beginning, then there’s no place to go.

You never want to judge a character, as an actor. The audience can do it. What’s this guy’s job? He’s there to tell the story. The playwright made him conscious that what he was doing was wrong.

When they gave it to me, I read it, and I gave it to a thirty year old woman, and said what do you think, and she said it was funny.

The play weighs it so that you sympathise with the guy to a point. But in the end, what he does is wrong.

He falls in love with her, is it genuine love, or is it infatuation?

At one point I thought it was too one-sided against him. I was a little scared: I wasn’t sure. I was given an earlier draft, the first. I read it and it was not perfect. I said there was something here, and I was curious to see the following draft. and  then I got the following draft and I was a little taken aback because in the first draft, she was a little more experienced.

 In this draft they’d taken away all the experience. It was the right decision because from my perspective, i go, you’ve totally weighed it against him. Its not ambiguous. The director says yes but the play is from her point of view. The writer got rid of the stuff that made it ambiguous.

It’s  a  very good play, I love it the more I work on it.

Nothing special, the only thing i did that i don’t usually do is i got off book early. Usually I learn my lines in rehearsal. This time we only had four weeks. That’s the only thing I did differently to prepare. Otherwise, nothing. I made sure I understood every moment, and that every time there was contact that I was initiating it. 

It’s a big one to unpack, you tend to think what the character’s writing, or what he speaks about, is autofiction. The play is autofiction. He put everything in the third person, he did autofiction. and that at the end of the play you find out it’s not even his play, it’s her autofiction, her perspective of his perspective. He’s in somebody else’s autofiction. 

The toughest moment for me to play is the moment in the bar when he walks away from her because I’ve been in some positions where I can kind of understand. There’s a lot of him that I can understand. 

Me: I go: schmuck, listen to her. He’s at a level of selfishness that he makes about him, which is why he walks away from her. Again, me, my self preservation would go: listen to her. It’s a heavy lift for me.

A lot of clown in this. Quick shifts, barrelling, the specifically clown bits were the bandage scene: that’s pure clown.

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