Back to Stage

As true today

Molière’s classic Tartuffe, about a fraud claiming false piety, still feels timely

In rehearsal: Weetus Cren, as the titular Tartuffe, trading words with Deanna Martinez, as Elmire. Photo credit: Steve Gallion

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

Fiction has long been dominated by stories of charlatans -- charismatic or otherwise -- who blow into people's lives and attempt to fleece them of anything that isn't tied down. It's a trope that's persisted as well as it has for very clear reasons, the main of which being that it's eminently easy to find any number of real-life stories of hucksters taking advantage of those who are a little too trusting; they trust that one person with the right plan and a surplus of confidence can enrich them either financially or spiritually.

So, it's not surprising that a story as old as Tartuffe (AKA Tartuffe, or The Impostor, or The Hypocrite, not to put too fine a point on it) can feel as relevant today as it did when it was written in the latter half of the 17th century. Molière's classic comedy concerns Tartuffe, a vagrant and fraud who has weaseled his way into the lives of Orgon and his family, under the guise of divine authority. Save for Orgon and his mother, the rest of the family immediately recognizes Tartuffe as a conman. Orgon, though, is thoroughly under the thrall of Tartuffe, to the point that he aspires to marry Tartuffe to his daughter Mariane. It's up to the family to expose Tartuffe's machinations and extricate him from their lives.

Tartuffe has been adapted and directed by Niclas Olson for his New Muses Theatre Company, which specializes in bringing classic works to the Tacoma stage.

"The material isn't really much of a stretch for 2019," says Olson. "We've integrated a little bit of technology into the story telling, but the rest of the story really works as is. We have talked about the fact that in many ways our present-day charlatans are better at what they do than the persons Moliére was skewering. It isn't much of a stretch to see Tartuffe convincing Orgon to buy him a private plane."

New Muses has, in recent times, found its home in the black box theater space of Dukesbay, which helps to lend their shows a scrappiness and intimacy that might get lost in bigger spaces. Attending a New Muses production at Dukesbay means getting up close and personal with the actors and the material.

"One advantage we have being a small company is that we can work tight and efficient," says Olson. "Most New Muses shows rehearse fast, generally one to two weeks less than what you'd see from a show at Tacoma Little Theatre or Lakewood Playhouse. The nice thing about being 10 seasons in is that we've got a pretty good formula by this point. The major difference with Tartuffe, because it's a big comedy, is that we're continually finding and implementing new physical bits in a way we often wouldn't be by this point."

Sometimes, seeing the classics can be intimidating, but there's always at least a kernel of recognizably modern-seeming themes in these old works. In the case of Tartuffe, there's very little separating it from the world of today.

Tartuffe, 8 p.m., Friday-Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, through July 14, Dukesbay Theater, 508 Sixth Ave., #10, Tacoma, $10-$15,

Read next close


They can do it!

comments powered by Disqus

Site Search