Tartuffe By Molière
Translated by Richard Wilbur
Directed by John Christopher Jones
Starring Matthew Striegel, Haley Benson, and Casey Casteel
Annie Russel Theatre at Rollins College
Winter Park FL</strong>
I hate to say this, but when someone begins a conversation with a declaration of their Christian faith, I tend to count my fingers and run like hell. That skepticism eludes gullible Orgon (Casteel); he’s taken in by by the Rasputin-like Tartuffe (Striegel). Tartuffe prays, flagellates himself and slathers on the piety like gravy on your Waffle House hash browns. The subterfuge was lost on everyone else on stage. He gets lectures from everyone from his brother Cléante (Nicolas Petersen-Gyongyosi) to smart aleck housekeeper Dorine (Chole Brewer). Well, Orgon’s mom Madame Pernelle (René Borr) drinks the Kool-Aide as well; but her main role is to do an expo dump in Act One, and have a comeuppance in Act Two. There’s a hook as well: Daughter Mariane (Lilly E. Garnett) is on love with likeable Valère (Bernard Farquharson) but Orgon promises her to Tartuffe. Orgon manages to be an idiot on as many levels as possible and when he signs everything over to Tartuffe, it’s only a day before Tartuffe turns on his benefactor and evicts the whole family after ratting him out to the king. How can Orgon be saved? Not from the machinations of a clever servant; it takes the full frontal Deus ex Machina of the King. Yeah, the ending is happy, but weak.
Excellence abounds on this stage; Striegel’s Tartuffe is not only oily, but viscously virtuous and his seduction of the glamourous Elmire (Benson) is actually disturbing. Ms. Benson has the best wardrobe of anyone; her fashions span from the 30’s to the 50’s giving her a powerful seductive note as she draws Tartuffe toward his potential destruction. Cléante is elegant in his tux and F. Scott Fitzgerald hair, and Garnett’s’ Marianne is properly demure and sympathetic. I thought Dorire was very strong in the first few scenes, but her powers fade when pitted against a genuine conman. The set was simple yet glorious with a curved staircase, a miles long chandelier, and classic paintings that were easily stolen by Tartuffe’s servant. The set blended right in with the flapper-era look of the Annie Russell interiors, and overall this was a very elegant evening.
For more information on the Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins College, please visit http://www.rollins.edu/annierussell/current_season/index.html