4/21/2013 5:01 PM
Christopher Hampton’s “The Philanthropist,” starts out with a bang, literally. John, Don, and Philip gather in Philip’s apartment critiquing a new play John has just finished acting out. Don doubts if the main character would commit suicide at the end of the play. To prove his case, John reenacts the ending, ultimately resulting in his suicide. A few days later, Philip is hosting a dinner party with his fiancé Celia. The attending persons are Braham, an egotistical writer, Araminta, a woman known to get around the college professors, Liz, a bashful woman Don thinks would be great for Philip instead of Celia, and of course Don, who is also a professor at the college John teaches at. Braham, who isn’t subtle in his affection for Celia, dominates the evening conversation. The evening ends and despite Celia asking Philip to stay the night with him, he unwittingly sends her home with Braham. Araminta offers to stay and help Philip clean up while Don and Liz leave together. To his surprise, Araminta makes a move on Philip who reluctantly agrees to sleep with her. The next morning, however, Celia shows up before Araminta’s departure. Celia confesses to sleeping with Braham and ends up breaking-up with Philip. Philip considers pursuing Liz, but learns that Don and her have hit it off and Philip ends up alone. Hampton’s twist on Moliere’s “The Misanthrope” is impressive and hilarious to follow. Despite all the horrific events, Philip rolls along with all the punches. He likes everything and everyone but that still manages to upset people. He’s ultimately Mr. Agreeable. Hampton’s dialogue and banter is incredibly dry and brilliant. The conversation that dominates the play is both engaging and insightful, yet so telling of the characters. When national tragedy strikes England, this dinner party is firm on only discussing themselves.