|SCR's 1964 production of Tartuffe.|
The story remains the same. This dark comedy follows Tartuffe, a clever man who knows how to work every angle. A family watches in astonishment as Orgon, the head of the household, falls under Tartuffe’s spell of ideal piety. With beautiful women like Elmire and Mariane in the family, it’s difficult for Tartuffe to keep his thoughts turned toward heaven. Tartuffe's always got his eye on a prize and knows how to play the game—but will he win in the end?
Director Dominique Serrand has been working to perfect his vision of Tartuffe since 1998, in collaboration with adapter David Ball. Serrand’s approach to Tartuffe emphasizes the fanaticism and zealotry inherent in Tartuffe’s manipulation of Orgon and employs judicious use of religious iconography.
Serrand’s darker and layered approach to the play, rather than treating it as a simple French farce, is at the forefront of a more nuanced view of Tartuffe. Julia Prest, in her book Controversy in French Drama: Molière’s Tartuffe and the Struggle for Influence, notes that “Modern directors have, even as they have allowed themselves to stray from Molière’s original text and content, in fact perceived something that has been paid less attention by scholars but that I shall argue was present in the Tartuffe controversy all along: a simultaneous condemnation of fanaticism (or in seventeenth century parlance, zealotry) as well as hypocrisy.”
|Tartuffe set rendering , designed by Dominique Serrand and adapted for SCR's stage with Tom Buderwitz.|
|Costume rendering for Elmire by Sonya Berlovitz.|
Ultimately, Serrand’s approach and the supporting production elements serve to highlight the darker underbelly of Molière’s text. The religious imagery is juxtaposed with bold depictions of Tartuffe's worldly appetites, and Serrand gives full value to the tragic implications of Organ's single-minded devotion to the hypocrite, Tartuffe. Of course, like life, there are still many moments of laughter, even when it is a laugh born out of desperation.
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