Chicago Theatre Review
Not too late to celebrate Moliere at Court Theatre
By Lazlo Collins
The successful modernization of the French Classics is indeed the goal with all theatres that include a worldly repertoire. The Court Theatre’s “Tartuffe” brings this satirical comedy by Moliere to life with accessible gladness.
Under the expert direction of Charles Newell, and lovingly translated by Richard Wilbur; this adaptation is superb. It is a smart and funny production that has the audience from the first word.
The story of the imposter Tartuffe takes us to our very own Hyde Park/Kenwood, and the home of Orgon (A.C. Smith). Orgon has a guest that the rest of his family is ready to boot out of the house. He is completely under Tartuffe’s power. The guest is Tartuffe (Philip Earl Johnson). He is a religious charlatan that has taken over the household. Tartuffe instructs and swaggers, keeping all that reside or enter the house within his religious fervor.
Mr. Johnson plays Tartuffe with all the smarmy robed elegance he can muster. He was as beguiling as he was oily.
Orgon’s mother (lovingly and hilariously played by Allen Gilmore) approves of Tartuffe’s house take over. Mr. Gilmore plays the part with just the right amount of sass and wink. She extoll his virtues to the home’s occupants as the story unfolds.
The immediate family unit is Orgon’s wife, Elmire (Patrese D McClain); their son, Damis (Dominque Worsley); and daughter, Mariane (Grace Gealy).
We learn Mariane’s heart belongs to Valere (Travis Turner), but her father has other plans for her to wed Tartuffe.
As the story unfolds, the family must stop the impending nuptials. Since they cannot sway Orgon’s opinion of Tartuffe, they need proof. Tartuffe has shown some unwanted affection towards Elmire. She decides to trap Tartuffe in a classic hilarious over-and-under the table scene. Ms. McCain was superb as the faux vixen.
After Tartuffe is revealed as the player he is, he vows to ruin the family and remove them from his home. Can he be stopped?
This talented and energetic cast makes this piece sing with joy and abounding energy. I appreciated all the actors’ attention to character detail. Mr. Smith as Orgon commands the stage as he slowly comes around to see what the family has been trying to tell him from the start.
Leading the persuasive charge from the get go, is Mariane’s lady’s maid, Dorine. Passionate and outspoken Elizabeth Ledo brings the audience fully on board with her delightfully cocky portrayal. Her character says it like it is, and won’t be still for anyone. He performance is a stand out.
The set design, lighting and sound were perfect for all the proceedings.
I thought the costumes, although modern in style, gave us a nod and a wink to the past. It was a bright and beautiful collection keeping the audience smiling.
I have seen productions of “Tartuffe” before and this particular production is at the top of the list. The translation was bright with a contemporary flair.
Tartuffe at the Court Theatre continues through 14 July as part of the Moliere Festival. For tickets visit www.courttheatre.org
For this and other productions please visit www.theatreinchicago.com