Molière’s Tartuffe, currently playing at Southwestern University November 15-17 and 21-24 and directed by Robert Matney and Liz Fisher, is self-described as “Deception, greed, and seduction. All in a day’s work.” It does indeed measure up to the labeling and while it was a little slow in finding its footing on opening night, the actors roared back in the second act with a funny, fascinating, fast-paced show of sheer delight as they ripped the mask off the hypocritical Tartuffe for all to see, even though it was too late and all was lost. Or was it?
Tartuffe is a man of God. Or should I say a man of greed? Oh, well, we’ll figure it out eventually. Let’s start with the premise that he is a man of God. Orgon is so taken under Tartuffe’s spell that his home, his family, even his wealth are subservient to his relationship with this godly man. Much like the hypocritical evangelists in America during the 1980’s, Tartuffe has appetites that are hardly appropriate for a man of God. Once he has control of Orgon’s wealth, Tartuffe reveals his true nature. But, alas, it is too late. Or is it?
Written in verse, the text seemed to drive the actors in the first act and the sing-songy nature of the delivery reminded me of Shakespearean actors who let the iambic pentameter drive the delivery of the line rather than the thought or content of the line. Perhaps this was intentional but I was grateful that in the second act the actor’s wrestled the verse to the ground and prevailed.
This production had so many things to commend it and a few that with just a bit of attention would have made for a better effect. For some characters, costuming was quite strong; for others it appeared that last minute “additions” didn’t work and merely distracted. Perhaps those net poufs on one actor’s boots really did add something and I simply didn’t get it and just found them inappropriate and distracting. Ditto for the shoes for most of the actors. The mix of modern and period styles was distracted and poorly executed leaving the audience more occupied with questions about the period and style than the performances given.
The set, however, was so well done and worked so well for fast-paced action and sense of place. The staging however left a little to be desired, some of the blocking was a complete miss putting important moments behind large pieces of scenery and leaving part of the thrust audience in the dark about what action was taking place. At time the direction seemed to be that of a beginner or student, then other times seemed spot on. All in all, this was a delightful, entertaining production. Thurs., Fri., and Sat. shows are at 7:30 pm. Sat. and Sun. matinees are at 3:00 pm. To order tickets by phone, call 512-863-1378; to order online, visit http://www.southwestern.tix.com.