Tartuffe, by Moliere: A Reality Show
City Garage continues its tradition of ribald, contemporary versions of Moliere's classic comedies with a new take on his masterpiece about religious hypocrisy,"Tartuffe" translated by director Frederique Michel and adapted by her long-time collaborator Charles Duncombe. Tartuffe, a Reality Show! Welcome to the glitzy, gaudy Beverly Hills mansion of the delightfully deluded businessman Orgon Pernelle. He rescues a homeless hustler from the street who pretends to be a pious preacher, but his family sees what he doesn't see: a masterly con-man. His trophy wife, his rebellious, spoiled children and his naughty maid all want the cunning pervert to be thrown out. Step by step, the imposter Tartuffe seduces his victim until the man is ready to sign over everything he owns to him--all in the name of purifying himself spiritually! Will Tartuffe get away with it or will the family expose his evil scheme?
From "Stage Raw:"
"City Garage's creative duo of Frédérique Michel and Charles A. Duncombe[in] their joint adaptation and translation, employing an approachable vernacular, she directing and he producing and designing, balances with sophistication the deeply embedded rhythmic requirements of the foundational text and of an authentic staging with the need to highlight clearly the playwright's unfortunately uncanny relevance to our own hypocritical times.Michel and Duncombe imbue the familiar plot and characters with fresh repartee and a soupcon of mid- 20th century dash. It's less a deconstruction (and even less "a reality show," other than a few out-of-sync video bumpers) than an attempt to realize the essences of the material in all its eccentricities and individuality of style by means of a reimagining of the language, not unlike how jazz improvisation can meander far from the melody while never losing the basic sense of the tune.
"Villas, so novel in City Garage's Neil LaBute show, The Break of Noon, earlier this season, makes a virtue of his natural astringency, deflating the pomposity from his nefarious invoker of moral rectitude, playing the hypocrisy as the engine of the long con he is grifting. For all the subterfuge and deceit, Tartuffe is as much the rational man as the passively ineffectual intellectual brother-in-law Cléante (briskly underplayed by David Frank). New to the troupe, Chelsea Militano proves a wily surprise as an Elmire who starts out a bikinied bimbo, only to prove the sole character capable of decisive action and control. And no classic comedy would be complete without some over-the-top zaniness, here provided with violent flamboyance by J. Carlos Flores in drag as the all-knowing housekeeper Dorina, a Lupe Vélez caricature that provides a manic version of the subversive stereotypes long ago limned so covertly by Stepin Fetchit."
- Myron Meisel, Stage Raw
"Tartuffe" has become a secular passion play for LA audiences. It's staged frequently, in a variety of styles, and it's message always underlined as particularly timely and pertinent to the day. Frédérique Michel and Charles Duncombe's translaptation is a light, fun romp and a surprisingly faithful representation of the story.
"The bulk of Michel's cast goes full throttle, each inhabiting his or her own world-within-a-world. Saucy maid Dorine (a gender-bent J. Carlos Flores) takes on her bosses in Spanglish, daughter Mariane and her beau (Megan Kim, John Hayden) carry on in Valspeak, noble young Damis (Johnny Langan) is hell-bent on saving his family while harboring feelings for his stepmother. Roberts's Orgon fumes and blusters, Trace Taylor shines as Mme. Pernelle, and David Frank' restrained Cléante is the only sane one of the bunch. At times supporting players come off as talking past one another. The two characters typically allowed depth are Orgon's wife (Chelsea Militano) and the titular Tartuffe (George Villas) and so it is here. Willowy, elegant Militano, who would be at home on a volleyball court, plays Elmire as absolutely comfortable with who and what she is. She likes the sweet life, regards it as her due, and has no qualms marrying into it. Waugh had it right. Manners are especially the need of the plain. The pretty can get away with anything. Villas executes the piety and sleaze nicely and the famous seduction scene with Orgon in the arras flies."
- Ravi Narasimhan, Backscatter
City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center (View)
2525 Michigan Ave. Building T1
Santa Monica, CA 90404
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