Saturday, October 19, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) Tartuffe

Petrina Bromley, Andry Jones (photo by Andrée Lanthier)

Molière Lands on the Rock
by Jim Murchison

What would have happened if Molière had time travelled and crash landed into Newfoundland in 1939. He would have not been out of place. In fact the blend of Molière's biting social satire and the Codco affinity to salty, salacious self deprecation is so symbiotic that it is hard to say where Molière leaves off and Andy Jones's adaptation takes over in this wonderfully performed and meticulously directed skewering of religious hypocrisy.

Director Jillian Keiley has made crisp clean decisions that buoy this talented cast and give them confidence. The result is sharply focused action embodied with humour, stuffed with heart and wit that never becomes mechanical.

Playwright Andy Jones takes on the title character of Tartuffe himself and plays in perfect counterpoint the religious zeal of a messenger of Christ and the contrite attrition of the lost sinner hilariously well. You can see the wheels turning each time he needs to fabricate a new explanation for his moral weaknesses. 

Joey Tremblay as Orgon is the principal dupe of Tartuffe's deception. With blind faith he follows like a lemming unaware that there is a cliff in front of him, completely willing to sacrifice friends and family along the way. His rage at the others' lack of conviction is so complete that in a wonderfully slapstick moment he is able to discipline with a firm slap from a phantom arm he lost in the war.

As is the case in Molière it is the servants and long suffering wives that take the audience aside and expose the idiocy of the ruling classes. Petrina Bromley as Orgon's maid Dorine is left with the task of not only keeping the physical house in order but repairing the emotional and psychological wreckage invoked on the family when your boss is an idiot. It is a wonderful performance; as physically funny as it is emotionally right.

Christine Brubaker as Orgon's wife Elmir is a co-conspirator in setting traps to  capture the weak willed Tartuffe. The combination of slapstick satire and textured interpretation of the text again was clearly a delight to the audience.

The same is true of the lampooning pas-de-deux between David Coomber as Valere who is betrothed to Mariane played by Leah Doz until Orgon gets other ideas and promises his daughter to Tartuffe. The two get to use the full range of space taking their adolescent spat offstage, backstage and onstage again as the battle between wounded pride and yearning pulls them back and forth in a tug of war with the heart and the head. 

I could go on about the rest of the cast but I am already beginning to gush and you get the picture. I kind of loved it.

Patrick Clark's set design complete with fish trophies and moose head and Rebecca Picherack's lighting design complete the vision along with the rest of the talented technical teams' assistance that leaves only one unanswered question and one very good problem. When you start a season this strongly, how do you maintain it?  

runtime: approximately 2 hours with one intermission
Tartuffe runs until November 2

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