Get Tartuffified at SummerStage
Don't let the wigs, frills, and rhymes turn you away - Tartuffe, now playing at SummerStage of Delafield, is as poignant, pointed, and playful now as when it premiered in 1664.
Ruth Arnell as Elmire and Nicholas Callan Haubner as Tartuffe
Molière's theatre standard is somewhat of a cautionary tale - don't take everything at face value, or you may be in danger of losing much, much more than you bargained for. Orgon, the man of the house, has taken in the self-described holy man Tartuffe into his home... against the better judgement of all those around him. What ensues is a physical, farcical examination of hypocrisy versus morality.
In the first few scenes, Tartuffe is neither seen nor heard, but he is clearly the buzz of the house as the housemaid, Dorine (Victoria Hudziak), sneaks a word in on his behalf between each of Orgon's proclamations. What follows is Hudziak's cheeky battle against Michael Chobanoff's increasingly exasperated Orgon. The duo stacks each couplet on the last, keeping a breakneck pace and setting the tone for the lively acts to follow.
As Dorine has little motivation to maintain appearances, the tall task of cleaning up the mess Tartuffe causes falls into her hands. Through a weepy Mariane (Kara Penrose), we discover that Orgon has promised this daughter of his to the imposter, despite her previous engagement to the befitting Valère (Logan Milway). Each lover proves stubborner than the other, and it takes all feats of physical comedy for Dorine to bring the pair together again.
Finally, after much anticipation, Haubner's Tartuffe waltzes into the space with a swagger even grander than Hudziak had implied. Haubner lives up to the challenge of fulfilling a role so built up - he is dreadfully devout, radically righteous, and flagrantly faultless. His manipulations are nearly bulletproof. This leads us to the seemingly preposterous reality in which Arnell's Elmire is laid across a table, Haubner is pantsless, and Chobanoff is still swearing to the innocence of the man, from behind the tablecloth.
Director Dustin Martin has a history of handling classical theatre with finesse, and this piece is right in line. This cast of twelve grasps Richard Wilbur's translation with similar style. The delivery leans into the rhymed verse, embracing the natural tilt and lilt of the text rather than masking it. Despite the story being nearly 400 years old, each word is comprehensible to audiences of all ages.
Costume designer Claire Tidwell and scenic designer Christopher Kurtz work together to bring 17th century France to the intimate SummerStage venue, with a healthy balance of authenticity and dramatic flair. The extravagant fabrics and patterns remain in clear view, even as the sunlight transitions into nighttime, thanks to Chris Meissner's lighting design.
Whether it is in religion, politics, the workplace, or the home, Tartuffe's themes are ever present in our 21st century society. It is each individual's responsibility to see through a person's status to the truth of their character. Thankfully, Martin's take on this classic presents these truths through a thick layer of clever humor.