Theater Review: Tartuffe Reply

Before you get your hopes up, this isn’t a food review. No, I will not be discussing the delicious Italian ice cream desert in a chocolate shell, tartuffo, but the renowned play, Tartuffe, by Moliere. Don’t be too let down, though, the production of Tartuffe held at The Pearl Theatre at St. Mark’s Place was just as delightful as the tasty dessert, from the plot to the actors.
Bradford Cover, who plays Tartuffe, doesn’t waste time with small performances. His rendition of the character is bold and daring from the very beginning, and explicitly lets the audience know the hypocrite that Tartuffe really is. Orgon, played by TJ Edwards, takes Tartuffe into his home, under the wrongful impression that he is an extremely pious man. The shy and feeble attempts of his daughter Mariane, played by Carrie McCrossen, aren’t enough to show him the error of his assumptions, however. The cast decide that much more drastic measure must be taken, and the play unfolds.
Cover, who also starred in the play A Thousand Clowns from July 11, 2001 to September 23, 2001, entertains the crowd with an exuberant performance throughout, to the point of over exaggerating the characters apparent malicious hypocrisy. Edwards, provides a great complement to him, with his humble and befuddled rendition of the character Orgon. Orgon’s wife, Emire, played by Rachel Botchan, suggests an evil plot to trick Tartuffe into exposing his true colors in front of Orgon, as he won’t believe anything unholy of Tartuffe unless he sees it with his own eyes.
The entire enraged cast keeps ever busy throughout the play, shooting daggers with their eyes at Orgon, rolling their eyes, sighing exasperatedly, and putting their hands on their hips when Orgon refuses to listen to reason. Their acting styles, as well as their costumes, reflected each character’s social standing, and their personalities. A great example of this was in the character Dorine, played by Robin Leslie Brown, the maid of Orgon’s household. She wears a simple plain dress with an apron and boots, and her hair was up. This reflected her social standing, as well as her own spunkiness.
The costumes of the characters not only reflected their social standing, but their personality as well. Elmire and Mariane wore very fancy dresses, reflecting their wealth. Orgon, Tartuffe, and Cleante (Dominic Cuskern), wore shabbier, darker colored clothing with high heels. Valere, (John Willian Schiffbauer), and Damis, (Sean McNall), the youner men, wore brighter colors and didn’t have on curly wigs, like Cleante and Orgon.
Overall, the acting was much more exaggerated than imagined if simply reading the original play, written by Moliere, and translated into English by Richard Wilbur. Several instances of slapstick comedy that weren’t explicitly instructed in the play were added in. An example of this is when Tartuffe cut pieces of felt for his servent, Laurent, (Kila Packett), to cover up the naked people on the tapestries with. Tartuffe himself was interpreted to be a very intense character, completely ruled by his body. When in a room alone with Elmire, he didn’t seem able to control himself and keep from chasing her because of his extreme attraction to her.
Why should contemporary New Yorkers see a play written in the 1600s? The answer is, because it could be a play set in modern times, due to the way the actors took on their roles. The comedy masks the era of the play, and teenagers can be seen laughing to the point of tears within the audience. The comedy is sufficient to entertain, but the sheer message and intelligence of the play shines through, unmasked.

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