Review: Tartuffe (Scarborough Theatre Guild)

Tartuffe is a funny 17th century comedy, on stage at Scarborough Village Theatre

Showing at the Scarborough Village Theatre, Tartuffe is a playful 17th century story from Moliere that is colourfully staged and wonderfully performed. My guest, who knew the play as a student growing up in France, thought the English translation effectively captured the essence of the comedy. We were amused by the charade played by Tartuffe, the seemingly religious man who is far from pious. Attention, appearances can be deceiving!

The translator David Nicholson, whom I had the pleasure of meeting on opening night, offered us a prose translation that placed us right at the centre of this upper-class, God-fearing French household.

Early in the play, we meet Mme. Pernelle (Georgia Grant) who is the snooty mother of Orgon (Thomas O’Neill). She is blunt and authoritative towards her family, and she speaks of Tartuffe (Clive Lacey) as if he is a self-sacrificing humanitarian.

In fact, he is out to steal Orgon’s money and seduce Orgon’s wife. We are also introduced to the brother of Orgon, Cleante (Alex Bortoluzzi), who questions Tartuffe’s motives. Other family members who are suspicious of Tartuffe are Organ’s hot-headed son Damis (Alex Fairlie), Orgon’s daughter Mariane (Krista Mihevc), and Orgon’s wife Elmire (Susan Sanders).

In my personal opinion, the most outstanding whistle-blower is Mariane’s servant Dorine (Kerrie Lamb). She is clever and witty, and she always has something up her sleeve. Lamb does a great job of portraying her as the servant who is the eyes and ears of the household. Lamb also adds hilarious touches to the play, as seen when she’s caught eavesdropping, or when she tries to get Mariane to come to her senses when Mariane considers leaving her true love Valere (Salah Khadra) and marrying Tartuffe, as ordered by her father. Lamb is small and she’s dressed in servant’s garb, but her power and wit are oversized.

More hats off to Susan Sanders who plays Elmire. Seductive and smart, she has a strong presence that has Tartuffe wrapped around her little finger. I’d say that the most entertaining scene takes place between these two characters. While Orgon hides under the table, Elmire and Tartuffe show agile physical comedy as the game of seduction develops. The action is staged in an exaggerated, comic manner that earns the appreciation of the audience.

My only very small quibble with Tartuffe is I found that the audience members received too much lighting. The theatre is like a U-shaped arena that has us very close to the actors. Sitting at stage left, we were watching the action of the play while the audience on stage right were part of the background rather than being in the dark.

All in all, I had a fabulous, funny evening watching a modest-looking Tartuffe try to swindle a well-dressed family.

Details

  • Tartuffe is playing at the Scarborough Village Theatre (3600 Kingston Road)
  • Showtimes: March 17, 18, 23 and 24 at 8 p.m. and March 19 and 25 at 2 p.m.
  • Regular tickets cost $22 and be purchased at the door or online
  • Recommended for audiences ages 14 and up

Photo 1 of Clive Lacey and Susan Sanders supplied by the company
Photo 2 of Alex Bortoluzzi and Thomas O’Neill supplied by the company

 

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