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A MODERN MOLIERE

                                                                                            Brain Cheverie and

By Colin Dabkowski  Buffalo News  12/26/08                  Pam Umpierriz  rehearse

After two years as a roving actor-for-hire in theaters from Wyoming to California, Niagara University grad Andrew Liegl landed back in Western New York this fall. And he brought a few ideas with him.

Liegl, who directs a production of Moliere’s one-act comedy “Such Foolish Affected Ladies” opening tonight in the ALT Theatre, wasted no time in stringing together a production that would tap the region’s vast reservoirs of undersung talent.

Starting in late October, Liegl chose the show, recruited a large cast of friends and former students, tapped a choreographer and used MySpace searches and Craigslist ads to find his lead actor and an accompanying band. The result is an intentionally ad-hoc, patchwork production that proves — even during one of the busiest times of year — that Buffalo’s theater artists will jump at the chance to get together and put on a show.

The low-to no-budget show doesn’t have a set, and costumes have been provided by the actors themselves. Just prior to a rehearsal at the theater on Monday, actor James Wild was laying out a strange collection of garments on the floor.

“I’m making this up right now as I’m going along,” he said.

As for the gist of Moliere’s chuckleworthy one-act melodrama?

“The abridged version is, there’s these two women. They think they know everything there is to know. They don’t,” Liegl said. “And these two gentlemen come up, potential suitors, and they totally turn them down. So the guys decide to play a prank on them, for reasons you’ll have to see [in] the play. What they do is have their servants dress up as these guys who are all artsy, and they woo the ladies. And that’s the end.”

It sounds simple enough, but with Moliere, plenty can be lost in translation — from French to English as well as stage to page. Liegl said he chose the show as a lighthearted antidote to the seemingly endless Christmas fare that has been occupying local stages for the past couple of months, as well as to treat audiences to something slightly off-beat.

“They don’t call it the ALT Theatre for nothing,” Liegl said. To that end, he has hired the recently formed Bufalo band the Nepenthe, led by singer Nicole Bulger.

“I thought, ‘This will be cool,’ ” Liegl said. “I’ve got an indie rock/pop band playing for a classical melodrama.”

The Nepenthe brand of alternately hard-driving and emotional rock will also serve as the soundtrack to a 20-minute improv session after the play.

Bulger was excited to have the exposure provided by the ALT production for her newly formed outfit. She hailed Buffalo’s deep and diverse community of independent artists and musicians.

“I think people in Buffalo, for some reason, especially artists, are really encouraging,” she said. “People want to see success come to Buffalo. They want that to happen, so people will open doors for you. All you have to do is be ready to walk. That’s just how it is.”