Scene Dissections: Tartuffe’s Bait and Switch

Tartuffe is a play about a religious conman in the 16th century, written by Moliere. He takes over a family, and while Orgon, the head of the household is trying to get Tartuffe to marry his young daughter Mariane, Tartuffe has his eyes set on Elmire, the young woman’s stepmother. After Elmire finally gets Orgon to listen to what is going on, she stages a ruse so he thinks she’s going to sleep with him, Tartuffe is kicked out of the home, taking with him blackmail material that was entrusted to him.

Everything was great, but one scene in particular I cannot get out of my mind. In this translation, it was updated for the present day, but didn’t manage to lose any punch of the original. When the lawman came to arrest Orgon, he actually took away Tartuffe instead. He then went on a long monologue filled with Trumpisms. I recall “bigly!” and “covfefe”, and “fake news”, to name a few.  The reason he was pardoned is because Orgon was such a strong supporter of the king even when times were tough, while Tartuffe was just a piece of shit conman. At the end, all of the cast, sans Tartuffe, get drunk and dance on the furniture.

For a play that was rewritten three times at the behest of the king, because he couldn’t stand being laughed at in some way, it was still a masterpiece. And tossing in those Trumpisms made it clear that it wasn’t King Louis XIV they were talking about.

Another aspect in the play I absolutely adored was the power of smart women. It was Elmire and Dorinda who really hatched the plan to entrap Tartuffe. The only woman who was taken by Tartuffe was Orgon’s idiot mother. It was men who followed him around and believed his lies. There were some smartish men too- Cleante the brother-in-law, Damis the son. However, I felt like Cleante was really the only legitimately smart and caring one, while Damis was more pissed about losing his inheritance than he was about his sister being forced into wedlock. But the women were smart, they were strong, they were mouthy as all get out, and I couldn’t get enough of them.

I also got to see Tom Rooney’s (AKA Tartuffe) bare ass. and right from the front row!. Tom Rooney also looked one hell of a lot like Rasputin, and I loved the paralleling of the religious con men, one real, one fake.Tartuffe, Stratford Festival 2017