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Timeless Satiric Comedy “Tartuffe” On Stage At North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach

By   /  March 12, 2024  /  No Comments

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TR Robertson -Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, stage name Moliere, was a playwright, actor and poet writing comedies, farces, tragicomedies, and comedie-ballets in the mid-1600’s. He probably never imagined that almost 400 years later, many of his productions would still be performed onstage in theatres around the world. Currently on stage, at Solana Beach’s North Coast Repertory Theatre, is perhaps his most well-known satirical comedy, “Tartuffe” also known as “The Imposter” and “The Hypocrite”. This witty, beautifully performed and extremely funny production is also the play that created the greatest scandal of Moliere’s artistic career.

  • Bruce Turk as Tartuffe and Bo Foxworth as Orgon.

     Photos by Aaron Rumley

Many of Moliere’s plays were translated into English, beginning in 1908 by Curtis Hidden Page. The NC Rep version of “Tartuffe” is taken from the verse translations by Richard Wilbur. The original plays first version was performed in 1664 and it was shut down almost immediately the same year by French King Louis XIV, most likely under pressure from the Archbishop of Paris, Paul Phillippe Hardouin. Moliere attempted several times to revise the play so that it could be performed again, to no avail. The satirical comedy mocks the French aristocracy and upper-class French society and their mannerisms as well as portrays a less than appealing hypocritical Catholic religious devotee who tries to seduce the wife of an aristocrat. The play was also immediately denounced and banned by the Catholic Church of France as well as the Jansenists members of the Catholic Church and an underground organization called the Compagnie Saint-Sacrement. The Jansenists claimed they processed the doctrine of true grace. Amazingly, the comedy was originally well received by the general public and by Louis XIV. The play never attacks the institution of the monarchy and in fact the monarchy plays a role, verbally, toward the end of the play.

The beauty of the comedy also lies in the fact that it is written in twelve syllable lines of rhyming couplets, a total of 1,962 total lines. Wonderful lengthy monologues are performed by various cast members that present insight into each character and are full of, at times, biting comments mostly directed toward Tartuffe, the supposed religious devotee. An additional aspect the audience delighted in was the opulent stage set resembling the drawing room of a French mansion and the elaborate costuming each character, except Tartuffe in the beginning, wore. Make sure you are especially attentive to Tartuffe’s colorful costume at the end of the play. Audience members began to laugh out loud once they noticed a certain addition to his attire.

As with any play, the key is, of course, the actors and actresses on stage and this production has an amazing cast. Playing Orgon, the head of the household who is blinded by a belief Tartuffe is a to be trusted spiritual leader, is Bo Foxworth, new to the NC Rep stage. Foxworth is perfect in presenting Orgon as a person blinded by what he wants to belief and the obvious nature of what is going on around him. Playing Elmire, wife of Orgon, is Melanie Lora, returning to the NC Rep stage. Her scene of avoiding Tartuffe as she attempts to prove he is trying to seduce her is performed with flawless dance-like moves. The dastardly seducer Tartuffe is played by Bruce Turk, recently on NC Rep stage in an amazing performance as Henry Jekyll. We don’t see Tartuffe for the first 45 minutes of the play, but when he makes his entrance, he makes an entrance. At times you want to boo and hiss at Tartuffe, but mostly you laugh at just how crazy this character is and Turk masterfully presents Tartuffe as we imagine Moliere wanted us to see this character.

An audience favorite is Katie Karel and her portrayal of the family housemaid Dorine. Karel is also an NC Rep veteran, and her biting portrayal of the quick-witted maid is hilarious. Playing the children of Orgon and Elmire are Shante DeLoach as Mariane and Rogelio Douglas III as Damis. Both are making their North Coast Rep debut.  Christopher M. Williams is also new to the NC Rep stage and plays Cleante, the brother of Elmire. Christopher has several long monologues as he tries to sway Orgon into clear thinking about Tartuffe and to Tartuffe as he tries to get him to change what he has done to the family. All of the speeches are logical and contain true statements, but no one will listen to him. Perhaps Moliere’s point all along about what is going on in France in the mid-1600’s. The truth is out there, but no one is listening.

Returning to NC Rep is Kandis Chappell who plays the stately, tell it like it is matronly Mme. Pernelle. The only problem with Mme. Pernelle is that she also, like her son, has been taken in by Tartuffe. Kandis owns the stage as Mme. Pernelle when she appears.  Jared Van Heel plays flamboyant Valere, the young man that wants to marry Mariane. Kate Rose Reynolds plays Flipote (Mme. Pernelle’s servant), a Police Officer and Laurent (Tartuffe’s servant).

The play is directed by the award-winning director, actor and producer Richard Baird. Baird’s Creative Team included Production Stage Manager Vernon Willet, Set Designer Marty Burnett, Light Designer Matthew Novotny, Costume Designer Elisa Benzoni, Sound Designer Ian Scot, Co-Props Designer Matt Fitzgerald, C0-Props Designer Tessia Iadicicco, Hair & Wigs Designer Peter Herman, Assistant Costume Designer Grace Wong, Assistant Stage Manager Victoria Hua and Production Assistant James Snyder.

“Tartuffre” will be on stage at the North Coast Repertory Theatre at 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach until April 7th. For tickets call 858-481-1055 or go to www.northcoastrep.org. Next on stage at NC Rep will be “Sense of Decency” by Jake Broder beginning on April 17th

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