TheColonial Players, Annapolis’ oldest theater company, kicked off its 75th season with a much older play—“Tartuffe” by famed 17th century French playwright, poet, and actor Moliére. When Moliére debuted “Tartuffe” in Palace of Versailles in 1664, it won accolades from critics, audiences, and even King Louis XIV. Archbishop of Paris, Paul Philippe Hardouin de Beaumont de Péréfix, however, was less enthusiastic. Under pressure from the Roman Catholic Church, the king withdrew his support and suppressed the wildly popular play. Why? Perhaps the theme of maleficence clothed as piety hit a bit too close to home for the good Archbishop.
Of course, you can’t keep a good play down. Over the next 300+ years, various translations of “Tartuffe” found both audiences and accolades worldwide. In the 1960s, award-winning American poet Richard Wilbur’s translation became a modern standard bearer. It is this translation, The Colonial Players have made their own.
The entire cast has charisma and a strong stage presence making this production of a classic a must-see…What a wonderful way to start the new season!
While Moliére’s original work is written in 12-syllable lines of rhyming couplets (Alexandrines), Wilbur’s translation is written in 10-syllable lines of rhyming couplets. Either way, it is a long and funny poem. The language, while clever, is occasionally awkward and lofty. Perhaps this is the reason more than one actor fumbled their lines on opening night. Despite the occasional, momentary lapses and lines delivered with less-the-perfection, the company gave an enjoyable performance that kept the audience interested and laughing. Indeed, this was a brilliant comedy with modern social relevance.
The plot is simple. Wealthy Orgon has taken the falsely pious Tartuffe (John Halmi) into his home and into his confidence against the wishes of his wife, Elmire (Carrie Gross Brady), and his two grown children, Mariane (Hannah Geib) and Damis (Austin Bennett). His brother-in-law, Cléante (Jason Vaughan), advises him against trusting his new friend. Dorine, the family’s outspoken servant, is especially critical of her employer’s beloved pal. With Orgon and his mother firmly under Tartuffe’s spell, everyone else seeks to expose him as a conniving fraud. How far will they go to trap their unwanted house guest in a lie? Will they be able to convince Orgon that his new friend is anything but saintly? Will Orgon’s arrogance and naivety bring about his fall?
Under the direction of Beth Terranova, Michael J. Galizia gives a power performance as Orgon. Ashley Simons gives a sublime performance as the wise Dorine. Meg Venton plays Orgon’s pushy mother, Madam Pernelle. John Sines is Mariane’s fiancé Valére and Scott Sanders is Loyale, the bailiff who attempts to evict Orgon and his family and Tyler Heroux is the police officer. Newcomer Jane Carriagan proves there are truly no small roles as Flipote, the silent, but hilarious servant of Madam Pernelle. The entire cast has charisma and a strong stage presence making this production of a classic a must-see.
In addition to an enchanting script and a talented cast, this production has an elegant set with the details we have come to expect from The Colonial Players. Terranova serves as the set designer along with Constance Robinson. Thanks to Costume Designer Linda Swann, the cast is dressed in colorful, fun clothing that adds to ambiance. She is assisted by Christina McAlpine and Sandy Ourrison.
Congratulations to Colonial Player’s on their 75th Anniversary—and thank you for giving us “Tartuffe!” What a wonderful way to start the new season!
Running time: Approximately two hours and 15 minutes including one 15-minute intermission.
Advisory: Features comedic violence and adult themes.
“Tartuffe” runs through September 30, 2023, Thursdays through Sundays, at The Colonial Players, 108 East Street, Annapolis, MD 21401. For more information and tickets, go online. Click here for directions and parking information. Face masks are optional.