Joey Collins stars as Tartuffe. Photo by HuthPhoto.
Most people know that Moliere was a famous playwright, but most people, at least in the Triangle area, probably haven’t had a lot of exposure to his work, at least not recently or locally. That is what makes PLAYMAKERS Repertory Company’s production of Moliere’s Tartuffe, adapted by David Ball and directed by Saheem Ali, feel so very fresh and new, despite the fact that it is anything but. In fact, even those not familiar with Tartuffe will recognize many of its themes and tropes from popular culture. Plays like this one are part of the human psyche, and never has that fact been made more clear than in this funny, circus-like extravaganza of a play.
Ali has held nothing back when it comes to making this production as over-the-top as possible. Incredible and outrageous costumes by Anne Kennedy help to fuel the surreal nature of the production, which features a diverse cast and updated, raunchy dialogue.
Joey Collins is wonderfully smarmy in the title role. His overly-flattering, ingratiating moments shared onstage with the rich Orgon (Ray Dooley) are some of the best that the show has to offer. These two actors, however, aren’t the only ones with “chops.” April Mae Davis is sweetly charming as Mariane while Shanelle Nicole Leonard garners laughs all the way through with her bawdy portrayal of Dorine.
Shanelle Nicole Leonard as Dorine. HuthPhoto
And, not only is the acting stellar, but every moment onstage has been precisely and artfully choreographed. A great example of the clever use of movement comes in the hilarious scene in which Orgon hides under a table, only to slither out comically at just the precise moment to create calamity onstage- and to come face to face with Collins’ Tartuffe.
Incredible (and hilarious) music choices also serve to amp up the fun and craziness that are the hallmarks of this production. And, despite all the hilarity, one is left questioning the idea of religion as a self-serving practice, making this show an ideal counterpart to The Christians, with which it is running in perfect tandem.
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