Sunday, February 23, 2014

Molière's Tartuffe at ANW

Alison Elliott (Mariane) & Deborah Strang (Dorine)

Restoration farce and Molière pretty much go hand in hand as representative of comedy of the times (it’s the 1600s!)  No doors opening and closing, but madcap humor and appropriate silliness abound in A Noise Within’s season opener, TARTUFFE. 

It takes most of the first act filled with exposition discussing the questionable wonderfulness of  Tartuffe (Freddy Douglas), the man whom many love to hate, but Orgon (Geoff Elliott)  and his mom, Madame Pernelle (Jane Macfie), are nuts about him and as the play progresses, not only is he painted as the Second Coming, Orgon wants his daughter, Mariane (lovely Alison Elliott) to marry him instead of her true love, Valère (Rafael Goldstein)!  There is never a clear reason why Orgon has decided that Tartuffe is God’s gift to the world, but about the time he’s signed over everything he owns to him, he begins to wise up.

No mistaking who’s in charge here. In fact the kudos go to the women.  Deborah Strang as Dorine shines in this piece, along with fine performances by Alison Elliott as Orgon’s daughter and Carolyn Ratteray as Elmire . What ANW does and has been doing for years is mixing and matching their seasoned long time company members with new actors who are not completely in sync with the old timers.  In this piece, Douglas as Tartuffe rises to his own level.  Director Rodriguez-Elliott makes good use of Frederica Nascimento’s creative set with black clad gothic supernumeraries who quickly move the furniture.   Bits with scads of tulle hold some fun and the physical humor works well.  Angela Balou Calin’s costumes over flow onto the stage.  Quite spectacular!  The issue is that with Mr. Elliott so over the top and others rising to his output not always effectively, it makes for a somewhat uneven production.

Interesting anachronisms caught the eye with the use of those plastic tobacco products that seemed totally unnecessary to me. However, a surprise EVENT blasts its way in with the The Officer (close on the heels of mustachioed Monsieur Loyal) both well limned by William Dennis Hunt, and we are treated to La Grande Finale!!   More tulle and feathers!

Over all production values are, as usual, just fine. The theater at the Sunday matinee was filled with an appreciative audience.  It’s a decent effort.

TARTUFFE by Molière
Directed by Julia Rodriguez-Elliott
A Noise Within
3352 East Foothill
Pasadena, CA 91107
Tickets  $34 top
626 356 3100 ext. 1
Plays in repertory February 15 to May 24, 2014

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