Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tartuffe, again

WE'VE SEEN MOLIERE'S classic Tartuffe four times in five years now, and what I wrote about it the last time, nearly three years ago, still holds:
The country's second-favorite play
This year? Moliere's
Tartuffe, they say.

Second most frequently produced,
That is, and now its wit is loosed
On Ashland's public, and they see
That lust and greed, hypocrisy,
And false religion can be fun.
Depends on where and when they're done.
Heroic couplets, stylish sets,
Elegant costumes—no regrets
At seeing Moliere's play once more.
Trenchant satire's never a bore.
We saw it again last night, in Santa Rosa's Sixth Street Playhouse, in a good-looking production with no-particular-period set and costumes (but very interesting and often funny costumes, suiting — sorry about that — the characters) and a fine cast having fun with Richard Wilbur's apt and entertaining verse translation.

It's community theater. Many of the actors teach drama in various schools in the area; their students are lucky. I was particularly struck by the way the director, Sheri Lee Miller, allowed individual takes on the roles, even the lines, while making a real ensemble of the cast.

Keith Baker was a marvelous slimy Tartuffe, the religious zealot-hypocrite who lusts after his protector's wife. As Orgon, the wealthy fool who takes Tartuffe into his family, Eric Thompson was solid, subtle, and very likeable. Jenifer Cote held center stage well as Elmire, Orgon's wife, and Kendall Carroll was a perfect, leggy Marianne, the petulant daughter.

Both John Craven, as Cléante, and Joan Felciano, as Mme Pernelle, were particularly effective in their long introductory speeches setting up the action. Jimmy Gagarin played the young romantic Valere (Marianne's suitor) nicely, and Freddie Lambert was effective as Orgon's son Damis. Mary Gannon Graham ran away with the role of Dorine, and Laura Tennyson was as funny a clowning Flipote as you could ask.

Tartuffe will probably never lack relevance, alas; if you don't know the play, a look at Wikipedia's entry will suggest the reasons. If you're nearby, give this production a look: it's really good.

  • Sixth Street Playhouse, 52 W 6th Street, Santa Rosa CA; tel. 707 523-4185; performances Thursday-Sunday through May 2, 2010.

  • No comments: