The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey starts off the 2018 season with a flamboyant romp through “Tartuffe,” a play written by Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known as Molière. Performances of this play have now been extended through Sunday, June 10 at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey at Drew University.
The plot centers on the antics of a so-called deeply religious wanderer and how he deceives his new friend, Orgon, into believing he’s all he pretends to be.
The cast is superb, with Brent Harris as the self-indulging visitor who tries to seduce Orgon’s wife, Elmire, played by Caroline Kingsolving, who ultimately traps Tartuffe in a later scene.
Orgon is played with a gullible demeanor by Patrick Toon. His son, Damis, played by Aaron McDaniel, does his best to expose the imposter, but to no avail. Despite his antics and frustration over what seems like obvious deception, he can’t shake Orgon’s blind assumptions. Still, the always observant housemaid Dorine, played by Victoria Mack, catches on right away and runs interference whenever possible.
Orgon is so entranced with Tartuffe’s holy manner that he promises his daughter Mariane, played by Sara Nicole Deaver, to him in marriage rather than her intended beau, Valere, played by Mark Hawkins. He even offers the deed to his house rather than leaving it to his own son, which further complicates the plot.
Then we have Orgon’s mother, the haughty Madame Pernelle, played by Vivian Reed, who provides her own judgmental take on the proceedings. William Sturdivant is Cleante, Orgon’s brother-in-law, who tries to strike a note of reason.
The rhyming words are often hilarious and the scenes of Tartuffe’s intended abduction of Elmire are priceless. She has convinced her husband to hide under a table so he’ll understand exactly what’s going on. There are other moments of flamboyant action as the household characters wrestle with the corruptive influence of the sly, manipulative Tartuffe.
Director Bonnie Monte keeps the action flowing non-stop in this translation by Richard Wilbur. The set design by Brittany Vasta replicates an 18th-century drawing room with settee, a few rococo furnishings and paneled walls, all in creamy, delicate pastels. Costumes by Nikki Delhomme enhance the theme, especially the flourishes of the women’s gowns and petticoats.
For tickets, call 973-408-5600 or visit ShakespeareNJ.org.
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