Feigned virtue, forced marriage and fraud in real life are not laughing matters. But in Moliere’s “Tartuffe”, playing now at The Stagecrafters, it is just about hilarious.
The nearly 350-year-old play, written in rhyming couplets, uses these vices to put a 17th century family through the wringer, with laugh-out-loud results.
The story of Tartuffe, a man invited in by the head of a household, Orgon, shows two sides: one of absolute and unshakable piety and another of lecherous greed. He shows one face to Orgon, while the rest of Orgon’s family sees the other.
While Orgon’s household tries to convince him of Tartuffe’s treachery, the houseguest continues to win the patriarch over—even to the extent that Orgon orders his daughter Mariane to marry the scoundrel.
The plot plays out as Orgon’s family attempts to expose Tartuffe’s true nature to Orgon so that Mariane can marry her true love, Valere.
While following a dialogue written entirely in couplets can be tiresome, and the comedic timing of The Stagecrafters’ cast was occasionally off, the overall talent behind the production is apparent.
The nearly-omniscient housemaid Dorine, played perfectly by Kathleen Mulhearn, is the straight-faced cynic through the absurdity of her surrounding characters: the naïve Orgon, the lovesick Mariane, and Orgon’s temperamental son Damis.
While each of these characters is meant to be somewhat caricature, Orgon, played by Richard Geller takes it a bit too far, playing the deceived man in the manner of a Saturday morning cartoon character.
But the highlight is seeing Orgon’s wife Elmire, played by Pierlisa Chiodo-Steo, onstage. Chiodo-Steo stole the show in each of her scenes, especially the uproarious farce with Tartuffe, where she seduces him to expose his hypocrisy to her husband.
And, as truth wins out in the end of the play, so does the charm of the characters, and the actors playing them. Well-adapted from its original French, “Tartuffe” is worth the effort.
If you go: Performance dates are June 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30 at 8 p.m., June 24 and July 1 at 2 p.m. Tickets are priced at $16.00 online. You can buy them here. Student and group rates are available. For information call 215-247-8881; for reservations, call 215-247-9913.
If you went: Tell us in comments what you thought of the production.