by ERIKA SASSEVILLE
Warning: This review contains some political opinion, but that’s what you get when you read a review from a Millennial with both theatre and political science degrees… Don’t come at me. I warned you.
Nearly 400 years have passed since Moliére first brought Tartuffe to Versailles, but the intervening centuries have not dulled the message at the heart of the story: beware the hypocrite who pretends piety to disguise duplicity. (lumin)theatre lab presents the French neoclassical comedy directed by Diogo Lopes, playing now through November 23rd in Hastings, MN on the second floor of Eye Candy REFind.
The central theme stands out strongly—particularly in the midst of our current political climate. Rational thought and reasoned arguments from Orgon’s family and friends are consistently met with indifference or even scorn by the patriarch (Dave Wasylik) in the first half of the play, echoing the feelings of many Americans in the Trump Era. Characters like Dorine (Libby Wasylik) and Cleante (Tom Sorenson) are true voices of reason, either through snark and mocking in Dorine’s case, or thoughtful, moral and ethical arguments in Cleante’s. While the social comedy has plenty of both subtle and broad comedic moments, it’s in the play’s serious and often chilling moments that the cast shines.
The titular hypocrite, Tartuffe, is played with an eerie and sinister superiority by Theo Ebarb. He finds excellent balance between Tartuffe’s two faces, switching from a pious zealot to threatening assailant with ease. Wasylik’s Orgon is blind to Tartuffe’s feigned altruism until he sees the truth of Tartuffe’s villany with his own eyes. Wasylik is utterly convincing, at the end, as a man who has burned all his bridges and is left on an island of his own making. Orgon’s mother, Madame Pernelle (Kelli Tatum) has little stage time, but leaves a mark on the audience as the last of Tartuffe’s defendants.
The rest of Orgon’s family spend the entirety of the play attempting to subvert Tartuffe’s hold on Orgon and restore the marriage pact between his daughter, Mariane (Leah Christine) and her fiancé, Valere (Laura Hoover). The two lovers are impossible to look away from, whenever they are on stage. Whether it’s during their realistic couples argument, their reunion near the end, or just while sneaking through scenes to be with one another. Mariane’s sister Damis (Caitlin Weber), is as much of a hot-head as her father, but with her heart in the right place. Orgon’s wife and the girls’ step-mother, Elmire, is played with careful elegance and stoic fury by Michelle Del. Her interactions with Tartuffe are frighteningly realistic, and accurately portray the nightmares of women across the world and through the centuries: men are not shy about taking what they want, and when women speak out, they often aren’t believed.
Zach Filkins and Joren Skov round out the cast with their short but effective appearances. All together, from the set and lighting of a modern living room (Sorenson and Dave Wasylik) to the simple yet elegant costuming (Claire Burkitt), Tartuffe is a delightful, yet harrowing, production. The sharp contrasts between light and dark tones sharpen the reality and modernity of both. If you are able, to make it to a performance, you will not be disappointed with the experience.
Performances run Nov 8-23rd. Tickets and more information can be found through www.lumintheaterlab.com
Directed by Diogo Lopes, Stage Manager – Kelly Nokk, Assistant Stage Manager – Beth Kellner, Producer Steve Soler, Costume Designer – Claire Burkitt, Props Designer – Suellen Weber, Poster Design – Andrew Hill, Lights – Tom Sorenson and Dave Wasylik, Sound – Theo Ebarb and Dave Wasylik, House Manager – Joren Skov.