Westport Country Playhouse's TARTUFFE tweaks a hypocrite with charm and wit

Jacques Lamarre

Three stars

For those of you who love Moliere

(and a production these days is quite rare),

a trip to Westport may be in order

(yes, that town near the New York border).

The French dramatist known for his wit

is once again tweaking a hypocrite.

One should get under the Country Playhouse’s roof

for now is your chance to see Tartuffe.

The Playhouse’s show is both smart and funny.

Big question: is it worth your money?

In short, the answer is “Yes.”

It’s mostly wonderful and hardly a mess.

The translation is by Richard Wilbur,

his way with a rhyme is quite a thrill, sir.

The entire production is presented in verse,

and those who hate rhymes are apt to curse.

But, if you like a smart turn of phrase,

you’ll wish it would go on for days and days.

The play is set in la maison d’Orgon,

whose home has been invaded by a gorgon.

A two-faced charlatan who is falsely pious,

Tartuffe is, in fact, barely religious.

 

The leads are as fine as one could wish.

Orgon is Mark Nelson; Tartuffe, Marc Kudisch.

Nelson’s performance is career-defining --

funny, poignant and laughter-mining.

His Orgon provides the perfect dupe

for Tartuffe to throw for a loop.

 

Kudisch’s take on the old rascal Tartuffe

finds itself beyond reproof.

Rather than obviating him as a cad,

the actor makes us question: “Is he really that bad?”

Of course, in time, we realize his plot,

but we know why Orgon bought what he bought.

 

The rest of the cast is a mixed lot,

with some showing restraint and others…not.

As Madame Pernelle, Patricia Conolly is top flight,

and Tyrone Mitchell Henderson’s Cleante is just right.

Nadia Bowers’ Elmire is tartly amusing,

and Charise Castro Smith’s Mariane is quite moving.

 

As the sass-mouthed maid, Mademoiselle Dorine,

we have an actor Serralles, first name Jeanine.

For this wise-cracking role, slyness is a must,

but her scenery chewing leaves little for the maid to dust.

In the over-the-top sweepstakes, there are two gents,

with too-too much by Messieurs Adams and Amendt.

 

The lovely set design is by Wilson Chin.

Orgon’s stately room shows an inversion within.

With Paris upside down and a cross right-side up,

we see Orgon has sipped the Kool-Aid from Tartuffe’s cup.

Ilona Somogyi’s costumes are up-to-the minute

and wouldn’t look out of place with a Westportian in it.

 

All in all, Tartuffe is a worthy trip.

David Kennedy’s direction is knowing and hip.

It is surprising to see Moliere in the summer,

and if you miss it, it would be quite the bummer.

The show is running until August Fifth.

Go see it for its smart humor and pith.

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