Confident sinning: lipstick and laughs in 'Tartuffe'

By Susanna Hostetter

What do big wigs, clever verse, and French seduction have in common? It’s Tartuffe, ladies and gentlemen, premiering this weekend on the Macalester mainstage.Moliere’s classic play was written in 1668, and was banned by the king of France for overtly addressing corruption and hypocrisy. The story centers on Orgon, the head of a clamorous household, who takes in a seemingly pious man he believes will save everyone’s soul: Tartuffe. Everyone in the house can see Tartuffe for what he really is-a scheming, lecherous creep-except for Orgon, who risks everything in his blind devotion to Tartuffe. The play reaches a climax when the family must trick their unwanted guest into revealing his true colors for Orgon, who is hiding under the dining room table, unconvinced.

Macalester’s unique adaptation of the play is directed by Harry Waters Jr. Waters said, “We very seldom get to do a period piece. It’s a chance for the actors to do something different.” And different it is, with snippets of baroque dance heightening the space between scenes. With all lines in rhymed verse and a seafoam green set, the production is captivating for the senses. And with its provoking innuendo the play is often hilarious, yet also seriously examines family roles, class dynamics, and the seductions of power and material gain.

Sporting a cast of 18, this is a big, colorful production. Featured prominently are Russell Schneider ’10 as Orgon, Katia Cardenas ’10 as Orgon’s seductive wife, and Eric Jones ’10 in the title role. Gwynn Shanks ’10 is the quick-witted maid Dorine, and Willie Gambucci ’12, Ann Stromgren ’12, Elijah Bernstein-Cooper ’13, Hannah Glaser ’10 and Roberto Capriotti ’13 round out the boisterous bunch. Ready to be seduced?

Tartuffe opens this Friday, November 13, at 7:30 pm. Further performances are November 14 and 19-21 at 7:30, and a matinee on November 15 at 2pm. Tickets are $7 general admission, $5 seniors and groups, and free for student rush. Call the Box Office at 651-696-6359 for reservations.