Getting near showtime. the delicate sounds of Haydn grace your presence as you sit A soft blue glows off as far as you can see; the milky pastel pinks and reds of a rather bourgeois late 17th century Paris household make you feel as if you're going to sink deep into your seat and never see daylight again. The Haydn helps. Go ahead, try and make yourself drift off into a blissful slumber. Hee-hee You won't even come close.
This is Tartuffe.
And it's wicked.
Director Pam Richarde snaps your head into an almost ruthless attention with some delightfully original bits of blocking: extravagantly costumed characters getting goosed a few feet from the security of your bubble high~ pitched feminine hoots and hoops get the eyeballs darting this "way and.-that as.Flipote, Coco and Philippe (servants played by Angela Capra, Kim Jones and Trace Larson, respectively) play their own game of cat and mouse-running bits that torque the gut with hilarity between scenes.
Not that Tartuffe needs such relief it's a nearly flawless production.Perhaps Richarde just wants to tease the most sensitive portions of our bellies. That's a good bet. Run with it.
Moliere's piece, which is a restoration comedy depicting the downfall of a hardcore conman, a ruthlessly oozing, nearly sociopathic slime ball who uses religion as a way to muster his finely crafted ills on a family to get what he wants (which is most likely sex, some cash and a cool pad}, was not warmly received upon its first performance in 1664 in Versailles.
Many felt that Moliere was lambasting the Church and it was judged by some as "injurious to religion." No free performances of Tart,were allowed for five years. Moliere insisted that it was indeed a very "moral" play and it's easy to see why: Moliere implicates religious hypocrisy.
Robert Dean Nunez has a firm handle on Tartuffe; Of course; he's blessed with a flawless script, but he also has the look down pat: a black-clad weasel with gold buckles and long, sinister strands of coffee-black hair that make him look a little like Alice Cooper. Aside from standing a bit shorter than most of the cast, Tartuffe can't decide whether to clutch his rather enormous gold crucifix or his crotch, though he occasionally brings both to attention with the same malignant conviction. It works brilliantly.
Granted, Tartuffe's a manipulative and rather upfront fraudster,let alone an extremely complex scum, and yet Nunez finds ample room for him on what could be the set of a very traditional Tartuffe interpretation.
Zachary Hahn's portrayal of the bourgeois patriarch Orgon has just the right amount of psychological fumbling and frustrated bumbling as Tartuffe spreads him like butter on a loaf of self-destructive religiosity; Orgon' s feet are never planted, rather they spin, wiggle and slide nervously about as he stands, another asset to the role that works in splendid fashion. One gets the feeling that Orgon has as much stamina as Dan Quayle in a mosh pit
One particularly funny sequence depicts Orgon trying to silence his daughter's companion Dorine (a witty and focused performance by Jenelle Soikkeli) but she won't allow him the last word. To put it
bluntly, Dorine has more guts~ she knows it and he can't stand it
Orgon's attractive daughter Mariane is played with a generous dose of dreamy stares by Diane Wilson, and her first scene with Valere (a hilarious turn by Austin Lawrence as a prissy-looking would-be suitor) provides a gallon or two of giggles.
But Tartuffe' s greatest moment is the (surprise, surprise) famous seduction scene, where Tartuffe is spring boarding on the bones of Nicole Maringer's Elmire (second wife of Orgon), who lies stoically on a table while Orgon hides beneath. Nunez and Maringer give the scene its standard, silly sexuality while maintaining the underlying nastiness. Maringer is successful in portraying Elmireasagood-hearted woman with a very reasonable attitude on life. Her early business with Tartuffe, where she is trying to hold a discussion while removing his perpetually violative hands is right on target.
The blocking in ''Tartuffe" is centered without losing its fluidity and boasts a rich, eye-pleasing supply of traditional gestures, spins and circles. Par tof Taituffe's magic shines with the casts' ability to hand Moliere the ball: his poetic, ear-rolling rhythms are allowed to accelerate on their own and the rhyme makes reason. The accents become somewhat deliberate at moments but for the most part, they are laden with just the right amount of snobbish tones and ... wen, that French thing.
Costumer Becky Wallice, Denise Landes' selection of music and the rest of the crew help make Tartuffe true to Moliere; Richarde's gutsy direction and fine casting give it that extra kick that any modem production ofTartuffe needs.
Robert Shirreffs, Brad Smith, Stuart Benedict, Vance Long, Barry Evans and Kyle Jones also star.
Tartuffe runs at the FC Campus Theatre Oct. 15-17 , 22-24 at 8 p.m.and the 25th at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8, students $7, groups and students with -A.S. card $6, seniors_ and children 12 and under $5.