Last weekend, the Weitz Blackbox Theater made way for “Tartuffe,” written by imfamous French playwright Molière in 1669 and translated by Richard Wilbur in 1963. Theater professor Roger Bechtel directed the farce, employing his experience with avant garde theater and projections, as well as the talent of many of Carleton’s finest actors, all to much success.
Above all the playmaking, atop the stage’s proscenium arch, rested a bas-relief of Molière. Down he looked on the explosively hilarious drama, set originally in and aristocratic household during the reign of Louis XIV, but instead passing this time during the famously fervorous Parisian spring of 1968.
The Pernelle family, led by matriarch Jane Kelly ‘18, donned punchy an interpretation of 60s garb, a mashup between 50s family-photo threads and 80s candy color pallet.
The genealogy of the Pernelle’s, formed out of the relatively homogenous age pool of Carleton, created a believable filial dimension. Hayden Tornabene ‘16 and Annie Wang ‘17 took the stage as Orgon and Elmire, parents of Damis, Mariane, and Cleante, played by Erik Sorensen ‘17. Emma Buechner ‘18 and Sarah Tan ‘16.
Matthew Broderick-looking Nathan Bern ‘17 starred as Tartuffe, a corrupt holy man who twists a bromance with unperceptive Tornabene to swindle the family out of their fortune. Hiding his excruciating virility behind spools of Bible verse, Bern’s appearance on stage is a fulfilling entrance — well into the middle of the show, the much talked about stowaway enters, with his wily disciple, Laurent, played by Patton Small ‘17, literally bearing a massive cross.
Wang played excellently against Bern’s advances, keeping the audience laughing throughout the uncomfortable setup. Overall, directorial decisions tended toward the over-the-top — from projections of the honorable Stevie P in a wig to a short cameo of “Bad Boy” Stu Lourey ‘16 on a real moped. The script maintained rhyming couplets throughout, a truly athletic feat of translation exemplified in such linguistic exertions as, “You deserve to be Tartuffeified!”
Despite the show’s strong whimsy, its politics were admittedly confusing — why, today’s viewer might to ask, was the show set in 1968? The program sported a quote from Mark Kulansky, author of ‘1968: The Year That Rocked the World:’ ”Ask anyone in Paris with fond memories of the spring of 1968, and that is what they will say: People talked… For the first time in this rigid, formal, nineteenth-century society, everyone was talking to everyone.”
The reviewer found this best understood as a reference to the relative political disinterest of today, but what was the upswing? To laugh our apathy off under banners of Bernie Sanders, dressed as Charles de Gaulle? To question holy men and their ulterior-motive-laden modern equivalents, and to be wary of their intrusion in the private sphere?
If the show wasn’t a home run, however, it was a clear triple, and a fine relief from stuffier historic shows. The audience was lucky to see such an all-star Player’s cast assembled — we can only wait for next term to see it topped.
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