You know who’s a wise, funny fella? Moliere, that’s who. I got my first face full of him a ways back with an Ottawa u production of Mamamouchi (aka le Bourgeois Gentilhomme), which inspired me to read a few of the man’s play’s, and even though they were translations they still kicked some serious ass. The news that the NAC English Theatre season would kick off not only with Moliere, but Newfie Moliere, was almost too glorious an announcement to bear. It was a long wait to the premiere of the new season, but it was totally worth the wait.
Programmed AND directed by Easterner and new NAC AD Jillian Keiley, Moliere’s classic TARTUFFE came to impressive life, updated and transplanted by legend and CODCO alum Andy Jones to 1930s Newfoundland (or somewhere very much like it), and stars himself ass the titular Holy Man who sets the byzantine plotlines off and running. Aided by the terribly impressive NAC ensemble players, we’re introduced to war veteran and town patriarch Orgon (Joey Tremblay, a veteran of plenty of recent NAC shows such as METAMORPHOSES and ST.CARMEN OF THE MAIN), who has succumbed to Tartuffe’s born-again charms and invited the preacher to live in his home. Orgon’s family is less enthralled, from mouthy maid Dorine (Petrina Bromley), to Orgon’s wife Elmire (Christine Brubaker) and children Damis and Marianne (Eric Davis and Leah Doz). Everyone but Orgon seems to suspect Tartuffe of being nothing but a slick mouthed shyster and, spoiler alert, they’re all 100% right. But even after Tartuffe puts some lame but enthusiastic moves on Elmire, he still manages to smooth talk Orgon into promising him his daughters hand in marriage, thus screwing up her already impending nuptials with her true love Valere, played by David Coomber). Used car salesmen WISH they had that kind of schmooze.
The goings on are joined by Elmire’s level-headed brother Cleante (Dmitry Chepovetsky), Orgon’s iron-willed Mom Mme Pernelle (Quancetia Hamilton) and her comically devoted maid Flipote (Eliza-Jane Scott), and Sheldon Elter as both an unwelcome Bailiff and a straight-shooting Ranger. The collective cast has so many great moments its impossible to single much out…I will say that my love of scene-stealing servants was well rewarded in this show, and echo my galpal Rebecca’s rejoinder that Marianne and Valere’s breakup/makeup scene is goddamn side-splittingly wonderful. The laughs in this production could power the NAC for a solid year, if they ever feel like going off the grid.
On the technical side, the set by Patrick Clark is SO MUCH NICER than where I live right now I wanna throw up. Seriously, it’s fucking gorgeous. And shoutouts to my Ottawa Theatre School profs Doreen Taylor-Claxton and Andy Massingham (suckup alert) for behind the scenes work on music and movement. I’m happy to see that stair moment Andy had mentioned went off so splendidly. This whole production is just an absolute frikkin’ delight from beginning to end, Moliere’s sharp skewering of religious hypocrisy still shining through and ringing as viciously true as ever. And to be clear, this play has no problem with God…it’s the clergy who take the brunt of the jibes, Andy Jones’ Tartuffe in particular. And Mr. Jones can take a jibe like the master he is…you should probably check it out for yourself. For reals. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)