Actors filling into the sophisticated set, murmuring in different languages, walking aimlessly and chanting words precious to each of them, you would think Tartuffe was going to be one of those stories drenched in dark satire and melancholy music.
It was actually quite the opposite. The University of Maryland School of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies took the play, which was originally performed in Versailles, and molded into a modern framework.
Dealing with issues ranging from how much spiritual devotion to channel, to how far to go with the crusade of love, the play was a spiderweb of clashes between traditional and extremist views.
Costume designer Tyler Gunther put each of the characters into stylish and distinguished outfits, none of them straying off from the cream and white color palette.
The sharp contrast between the polished and pure attire of the family compared to the rugged and dark colors of the rags, which Orgon (Samy Selim) and Tartuffe (Patrick Joy) wore, was a manipulation of sight–the characters might seem untouched and saintly, but they were full of sins themselves.
The rough wardrobe of Orgon and his spiritual advisor hinted towards humility and devotion, but as events later revealed, that was not what laid in their hearts, especially in Tartuffe, a character entirely too confident in his art of deceit.
Director Lee Mikeska Gardner made quite a few changes to the play, creating a current version, altering a few of the dynamics.
Although the play was performed to the court of King Louis XVI, the themes such as extremism, greed, religion and politics weren’t foreign at all. The actors were able to draw the essence of their characters and carve them in a 2015 model.
Orgon’s daughter Mariane (Daniela Gomes) was deaf and used interpreter, Cassandra (Heather Gibson). Gardner’s attempt to showcase the different representations of today’s society was present in the bits of Spanish and Italian spoken through characters such as a Latino Valère (Sebastian Rousseau) and wise Elmire (Iliana Papanicolaou) who used her charms to seduce the manipulative Tartuffe.
I applauded Marina di Marzo’s role as Cléante, who was originally Orgon’s brother-in-law. Her stable and patient demeanor accompanied with her eye rolls and unwillingness to back down brought a few laughs to the audience.
Saucy maid Dorine (Ashley Pugmire), a highlight of the show, made comments, which weaved the fabric of the events, her pregnant belly in tow.
Orgon’s faithfulness to Tartuffe drove him to disinherit his own son Damis, played by a passionate Montana Monardes, who had everyone worried during a vital scene in which he was hidden inside an ottoman for a number of minutes.
The sarcasm and satire, which caused Molière’s work to be banned for years, was what shone and reigned throughout the Kogod Theatre. The aged phrase “it has already been done” didn’t apply here at all – the cast and crew of Tartuffe demolished that notion.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Stan Barouh.
Karla Casique is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.