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Larry Littany Litt
TARTUFFE BY ZOOM
TARTUFFE or The Hypocrite
Direted by Lucie Tiberghien
Presented on screen by
Moliere in the Park
Broadcast June 27, 2020
Reviewed by Larry Littany Litt
Watching Tartuffe on a zoom digital screen was like watching hungry birds around a bird feeder. Each actor was interesting in their own way however none of them could hold hold the spinning feeder in place. That’s not saying the acting wasn’t up to the task. It was. I did get confused about the male actors’ character identities several times. I need costumes and makeup to help me with commedia del arte plays.
All the women in Tartuffe are smarter than the men. Orgon is a gullible baron who believes Heaven wants him to serve Tartuffe. I didn’t realize at the time that this particular Orgon was played by a young woman, Samira Wiley. I knew she wasn’t a middle aged Frenchman. Wiley carried off the perfect nervous idiot.. Her voice should have been the giveaway but wasn’t. Well done gender switch.
Raul Esparza is a demonically powerful comedic force in this production. His chameleon like Tartuffe is as slimy as a theocratic politician. He’s a cunning schemer with designs on the whole household. He can flip from saintly to grifting attitudes instantly. It was a joy to watch him dominate Orgon.
As handmaid to Orgon’s wife Elmire, Jenny Mudge’s Dorine oozed wisdom and wise-assdom like a scolding aunt. Mudge’s forcefulness and insight moves the play along. In stage versions she would be a singularly focal point presence.
Orgon’s sanctified holy mother Madame Pernelle embodied by the classic actress Rosemary Prinz kept me wondering if the whole family line were meant to be fleeced by confidence tricksters. The point of commedia del arte acting is to create stereotypical characters that we immediately recognize. Ms Prinz succeeds as the easily dupable victim.
Naomi Loraine created Orgon’s daughter Damis as an angry, temperamental and threatening character exuding passion and protectiveness. She filled the little screen with more emotion than anyone else. I was surprised she didn’t explode.
When Elmire, Orgon’s wife played by coy Toccarra Cash, schemes on Tartuffe’s role in their household I felt it was true to the French idea of comedy. Eavesdropping and scandal are oh so French and always a wonderful gimmick to further the plot. Director Tiberghien had me believing Orgon was actually under the table listening in.
The entire ensemble: Jared McNeill as Cleante, Kaliswa Brewster as Marianne, Carter Redwood as Valere and Chris Coffey as Mr. Loyal rounded out this odd but impactful Tartuffe. I give Dorector Lucie Tiberghien credit for making this production overcome the hurdles of zoom. I look forward to seeing her work in Prospect Park one day soon.
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