Timeless Tartuffe solid at Taproot
 

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posted Friday, February 17, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 07

Timeless Tartuffe solid at Taproot
by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Tartuffe
Taproot Theatre
Through March 3


French playwright Moliere loved to set up a straw dog to take down in his plays. He loved to make fun of the foibles of people in power. Tartuffe is one of his most produced works, and you can interpret it as making fun of the power of religion, but if you look closely, it's more subtle than that.

You have an opportunity to experience a solid production at Taproot Theatre, where you'll find Frank Lawler in the title role, a man who has taken on the garb of a pious man and moved into a household that makes a show of wanting to be the most pious family on the block. We don't even meet the man until almost the end of the first act, though we hear all about him.

The family of Orgon (Don Brady) is in an uproar. Orgon has just announced that he is going to void the potential marriage of his daughter Mariane (Charissa Adams) to Valere (Nathan Jeffrey) and instead give his daughter to Tartuffe. Orgon is so enamored of his live-in minister that he worries more for him than his own wife, Elmire (Jesse Notehelfer), who has been ill.

As the family complains, Orgon's mother (Ruth McRee), chastises them all and tells them Tartuffe deserves to be followed rather than criticized. Hot-headed son Damis (Solomon Davis) would like to duel with him instead. Moliere's mouthpiece, servant Dorine (Charity Parenzini), gets to badmouth everyone in the play, skewering them all from a below-stairs perspective.

Orgon's brother Cleante (Ryan Childers) tries to be the voice of reason, but Orgon is hearing none of it. Yet, when no one is looking, Tartuffe makes moves on Elmire, and even when she tells Orgon of this, he won't believe it until she tells him she can get Tartuffe to demonstrate it. Once Orgon hears for himself how Tartuffe abandons all his pious pretexts as he woos Orgon's wife, Orgon finally realizes how bamboozled he has become, though it's almost too late. He's changed his will to give Tartuffe possession of everything he owns!

A handsome production by Karen Lund, including meticulous costumes by Sarah Burch Gordon, clips briskly along, though the beginning scenes are so shrill that it's a bit one-note for a while. Lawler does a good job as the fawning Tartuffe, but he could be more obsequious and more religious and more condemning before he's revealed as a fraud. Brady walks a very nice line between goofball and once-ideal father.

Though it's done in Richard Wilbur's rhyming couplets, after a while you don't have to pay attention to the rhyme scheme and maybe can make some comparisons to current famous people who seem to say one thing while doing another. And since that's a normal human condition, this play will always seem contemporary, no matter how old it gets.

For more information, go to www.taproottheatre.org or call 206-781-9707.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com.



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