The most important thing you have to know about the interpretation of Moliere's Tartuffe that opened at the Westport Country Playhouse Saturday night is: It's hip, it's funny and it's entertaining.
This classic, controversial play written in the mid-1700's pokes fun at religiosity and those who believe they are greater than the God they worship. My favorite line in the play occurs when Tartuffe is trying to seduce his benefactor's wife by saying, “Heaven is not adverse to compromise.” He also tells her, “There is no evil until the act is known.”
Does this mean it's all right to sleep with a 22-year old intern if you're the President of the United States as long as no one, especially Congress or someone such as your wife—or the nation, for that matter—finds out?
Does this mean that priests get to have their own brand of modesty and morals while the rest of us fools are strongly urged to adhere to the Church's mandates regarding the bedroom?
Hmm....So, the hypocrisy Moliere courageously and quite humorously unveiled 350 years ago is, perhaps, pertinent today?
Directed by the ever-creative and brilliant David Kennedy—the Playhouse's
Associate Artistic Director and at the helm of last year's beguiling Suddenly Last Summer—a fresh take on a French classic unfolds on the Playhouse stage. And, it's anything but a 'period piece.'
In the playbill, Westport Country Playhouse's Artistic Director Mark Lamos writes, “One of the best things about so-called 'classical theater' –beyond the insight and satisfaction it provides, the food for thought—is that it makes you realize a continuity with the ages; makes you realize that people are still the way people were then. We haven't changed.”
Saturday night's audience howled with laughter at Orgon, the wealthy man who is duped by Tartuffe's air of piety. By putting this man of God so high upon a pedestal, Orgon is blind to Tartuffe's obvious flaws. I was as disgusted with Orgon's stubborn righteousness as by Tartuffe's justification for being an opportunist. To Kennedy's credit, and the two actors' skills, the characters seemed authentic and I believed that they believed in their cause.
I also thoroughly enjoyed Jeanine Serralles' bawdy, irreverent portrayal of Orgon's maid, Dorine. Her spirit ignited the production with more pizzazz than the gold confetti that flowed from the rafters in the final scene. Kudos to costume designer Ilona Somogyi, too, for providing splashy, sexy costumes plucked from the pages of Vogue. Serralles' sassiness is emphasized by her French maid attire, punctuated by the black lace knee-hi's and patent leather pumps. The pink floral print baby doll dress worn by Orgon's daughter, the ingenue Marianne, is at
once innocent and resplendent with a sexuality just waiting to be
It's an edgy production that pushes boundaries. Just like Moliere did in 1664 when his first productions of Tartuffe were banned by the powers that be. Though we struggle today with similar themes expounded upon in Moliere's text, we are fortunate to not have to worry about this production shutting down anytime soon. Tartuffe runs Tuesday through Sunday, until Saturday, Aug. 4. If you want to laugh, go to Tartuffe.
UPDATE: Performance added Aug. 5 at 3:00pm.
For more information and ticket information go to: www.westportplayhouse.org