Molière’s Tartuffe: a timeless production
The Department of Theater and Dance performed Molière’s comedy, Tartuffe, in Strider Theater this weekend.
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The Department of Theater and Dance put on a spectacular show of Molière’s Tartuffe in Strider Theater this weekend, taking the audience back in time in a humorous, Broadway-quality show.
In the show’s program, Teaching Artist and director Bess Welden described her process of choosing Tartuffe as “crack[ing] open [her] dusty copy of Molière’s greatest hits.”
The comedy, set in seventeenth century France, tells the story of an affluent French family whose paternal head, Orgon, played by Mike Trottier ’12, becomes obsessed with a destitute holy man named Tartuffe, played by Francesco Tisch ’12. Though Orgon’s mother, played by Alexis Atkinson ’15, is also taken in by Tartuffe’s piety, the maids and the rest of the family remain suspicious of his intentions. They create an elaborate plan to convince Orgon of Tartuffe’s treachery in order to prevent him from signing over his estate and his daughter’s hand in marriage.
A strength of the performance could be easily seen in the cast’s skillful interpretation of the source material. Molière wrote the original French script in 12-syllable rhyming couplets. The English translation used the same scheme, which presented a challenge for the actors, who needed to maintain the integrity of the dialogue’s content and the speech pattern simultaneously. This was masterfully done by the cast; the precise enunciation and smooth delivery of the lines allowed for a cohesive audience experience, while subtly integrating the semi-lyrical qualities intended by Molière.
The design of the stage was elegant, though not overly complicated. A staircase took center stage, through which actors entered or exited. A set of fancy chairs and a table with accoutrements appropriate to the scene remained onstage throughout the performance. These items were moved on, off and about the stage by the maids as needed, but not in a way that detracted from the focus of the play. The movement was similar to that of a dance, keeping scene transitions flowing very smoothly.
The costume design was as equally if not more pleasing to the eye as the set design. Costumes were true to the play’s setting and time period, as well as complex and exquisite to the point of perfection. The wigs were very well-made and expertly anchored, considering the amount of movement involved in the play.
The acting abilities of the ensemble cast shone especially brightly during the performance. Lindsay DiBartholomeo ’14 was notable as Dorine, the lead maid and outspoken consultant to Orgon’s family. Portraying this character’s inherent attitude toward the folly of her employers—and her varying subtlety in advising them—DiBartholomeo showed her masterful skill, making her an audience favorite in humor. Jeremy Gooden ’14 played Orgon’s brother, and powerfully delivered several complex speeches to advise Orgon of his foolishness.
The members of the cast with no lines—the three other maids and Tartuffe’s cohort, Laurent—were equally exceptional in their roles. Though they did not speak, these four livened the stage with physical comedy and animated responses to the actions of the rest of the cast, effectively creating a humorous and interactive commentary on the scenes as they progressed.
Overall, this production of Tartuffe was a masterful interpretation of a centuries-old play, allowing a modern audience to enjoy a type of humor that transcends the ages.