Showmag.com

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Tartuffe

E-mail Print

It was titled and re-titled – first as Tartuffe, then as The Impostor, and then as The Hypocrite. Today we’ve returned to calling it by the lead character’s name, Tartuffe. Initially staged in 1664, Tartuffe is arguably French dramatist Moliere’s most popular and most produced play. Likely due to the wishes of archbishop of Paris, Paul Philippe Hardouin – the royal confessor and tutor to the royal court – King Louis XIV had the play censored. And though the King didn’t have much interest in redacting the script, he did so “and deprived himself of this pleasure, in order not to allow it to be abused by others, less capable of making a just discernment of it,” according to an official account issued by the royal court.

Skip ahead three hundred years and acclaimed theater company South Coast Repertory, in 1964, had its inaugural production. The theater was (and is) based in The OC and, of course, that debut staging was Tartuffe. (Orange County is now a bastion of religious broadcasting in the form of Trinity Broadcasting Network, headquartered in Costa Mesa.) Now fifty years subsequent to that landmark production, SCR is celebrating the end of their fiftieth season with a new, if not improved, production of Tartuffe. Under the esoteric direction of Frenchman Dominique Serrand (with a crackerjack translation, often in rhyming couplets, by David Ball) – Serrand has helmed two other stagings of Tartuffe in his directorial career – rarefied theatrical techniques such as pas d’ action (“dramatic and/or pantomimic dance sequences that advance the plot”) are employed with varying dramatic effects.  The approach, while often elegant in appearance, can feel over-distanced and alienating for audience members.

The age-old conceit of religious hypocrisy is fittingly on display in Tartuffe. But in Serrand’s ritualistic approach to the material, Tartuffe feels like an insincere religious ceremony. Tartuffe (Steven Epp in a bleached blond hairdo and with a postmodern interpretation looking more akin to Scientology than to Judeo-Christian theology) is a charlatan who has mentally seduced the landholding aristocrat, Orgon (Luverne Seifert channeling the late Bob Hoskins). Yes, there are charismatic gestures and holy declamations made by Tartuffe, as well as implications of suffering and, even, crucifixion. The warped passions, however, are more off-putting than engaging. And, besides, everyone is on to Tartuffe’s phoniness except for the incredibly and surprisingly gullible Orgon.

When the family conspires to reveal Tartuffe’s lusty and hypocritical intentions, they finally do make it clear to the humiliated Orgon that Tartuffe has long desired a dangerous liaison with Orgon’s wife Elmire (Cate Scott Campbell in a brave performance). This is in spite of the fact that Orgon has betrothed his beloved daughter, Mariane (a well-timed Lenne Klingaman), to the pious poseur.

With a glorious scenic design by Director Serrand and Thomas Buderwitz, with elaborate costuming by Sonya Berlovitz, and a darkish, moody light design by Marcus Dillard, along with a gently echoing (as one would likely experience in a hollow 17th century castle) soundscape by Corinne Carillo – this Tartuffe is blessed with a large, ever-ready cast, which includes standout performances by Suzanne Warmanen as Dorine, a mouthy housemaid who courageously and comically challenges the matrimonial demands Orgon makes of his daughter, Mariane, and Christopher Carley as the dandy, Valere, who holds true love for Mariane.

Serrand’s self-described “darker” interpretation of this Moliere classic is not for traditionalist. The laughs in this supposed French comedy are few and far between. Instead, what we get is two and-a-half hours of devilishly intriguing stage work that may satisfy the most dedicated of theatergoers. For others, think twice before committing.

Tartuffe continues at South Coast Repertory through June 8. SCR is located at 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Evening performances are Sundays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays curtain is at 8 p.m. Matinees are Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30. For reservations, call (714)708-5555. For online ticketing, visit scr.org.

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.