Tickling a Parson's Nose

Los Angeles has a star shining brightly in its theatrical firmament. Parson's Nose Productions, a small ensemble troupe in Pasadena, has the unique mission of presenting classic stories in shorter, entertaining and more contemporary formats to appeal to the broadest possible audiences, young and old. Their dynamic and wickedly talented artistic director, Lance Davis, who adapts and stars in most of the productions, believes that the classics endure because they speak illuminating truths to each generation.

"These stories have endured because they contain the richest language, characters and plots in our culture," says Davis, who points out that they are the source for today's theater, film and TV, and are often about the most universal of subjects -- the family. Citing the works of Moliere as an example, Davis notes that "the joys and problems of 17th century parents and family form a bridge to the 21st century. We are, and always have been, part of the same human family."

Along with his wife and company co-founder, Mary Chalon, Davis has established a unique niche in the theatrical scene. Parson's Nose recently produced an abridged version of Moliere's The Miser at a performance space in Pasadena, highlighting the timeless humor of the French playwright using broad strokes and contemporary idiom, all the while staying true to the commedia dell'arte roots of Moliere's comedy.

In his role as the universally recognizable miser Harpagon, Davis pairs the fluidity of a gifted physical comedian with the intelligence of a devoted student of classic comedy. Working with his talented ensemble, Davis creates a hilarious contemporary rendition of Moliere's work. Mark Duggar is outstanding as his son Cleane, and Marissa Chandler has a riotous turn as Cleante's lover. Gary Lamb is terrific as Valere, as are Roxanne Morrison as Marianne, and Alan Brooks and John Harnagel in multiple roles. And Chalon is in top form, as ever, as the wiley and wise Frosine.

Many theater companies have the stated goal of making the classics accessible to modern audiences, but few accomplish it as successfully as Parson's Nose. Laughter is the keenest gauge of audience engagement, and the virtually non-stop laughter at Parson's Nose performances is a sure sign of their success. A final note: The name of the theater company comes from these lines spoken by Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet:
"Sometimes comes she with a tithe pig's tail
Tickling a parson's nose as he lies asleep
And then dreams he of another benefice."