By Roz Friedman

The French playwright Moliere, a kind of Woody Allen of his day, wrote

his comedies in the 17th Century, and they are as funny now as they were

then. The Westport Country Playhouse and director David Kennedy have

chosen to present Moliere's "Tartuffe" in modern dress and for the most part

it works. With an English translation by the poet Richard Wilbur and a

cast that captures the couplets, the play is rollicking. Two stars, Marc

Kudisch as the fraudulent religious fanatic Tartuffe and Mark Nelson as

Orgon, the wealthy man who believes in him, play off each other

beautifully. Kudisch seems to go back and forth easily between musicals

and plays, winning kudos for both. Nelson has won a Connecticut Critics

top award and will never be forgotten for his wonderful Einstein in

"Picasso at the Lapin Agile" off Broadway at the Promenade Theatre. He

was just seen at LW in "My Name is Asher Lev."


All the action takes place in Orgon's sumptuous home in Paris. On

Wilson Chin's black and white set accented with red, lit by Matthew

Richards, we meet Orgon's family. Costumed splendidly by Ilona Somogyi,

(The pink and white patent high heels she designed for Mariane are

fabulous!) his opinionated mother, Madame Pernelle, a strong Patricia

Conolly, his wife, Elmire, the lovely Nadia Bowers, his impetuous son,

Damis, Justin Adams, his doll of a daughter, Mariane, played by Charise

Castro Smith, and Orgon's brother Cleante, the clearly-spoken Tyrone

Mitchell Henderson, are all decrying Orgon's love for Tartuffe. They

hate him and his posturing. They are egged on by the sassy maid,

Dorine, played with such high spirits by Jeanine Serralles, she nearly

steals the show.


Orgon will have none of it, even going so far as to break his word to

his daughter's fiance, young Valere, acted smartly by Matthew Amendt -- and horrors of horrors insists Mariane marry Tartuffe. Meanwhile,

Tartuffe expresses his lust for Orgon's wife. When she tells her

husband about this, he refuses to believe it. In a famous scene, Elmire

sets up a sting, placing Orgon under a dining room Toile tablecloth, so

he can witness Tartuffe at his worst.


After a great deal of sturm and drang, all's well that end's well with a

special effect in the finale that we will not tell you about here. For

that, you must attend, "Tartuffe," which will only play through August

4 at the Westport Country Playhouse.


Published on WMNR.ORG



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