Tartuffe _ shakespeare in the Park

Last weekend, Shakespeare Dallas performed “Tartuffe” by the French playwright Moliere, to kick off the upcoming Shakespeare in the Park season. 

“Tartuffe” was written in 1664, decades after Shakespeare died in 1616. It’s only the second non-Shakespeare play Shakespeare in the Park has performed in its 43-year lifetime.

Why “Tartuffe”? Raphael Parry, the executive and artistic director of Shakespeare Dallas, explained in an interview a few weeks back:

“What I’ve always found is that — as with many of the writers who wrote plays after Shakespeare — Shakespeare had a profound influence on him. We just felt like the two plays [“Tartuffe” and Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing“] balanced each other well. They both deal with love and jealousy and trust.”

(Read the rest of the Q&A with Raphael Parry here.)

Tartuffe“Tartuffe” is taking a break this weekend to kick off “Much Ado About Nothing” (a personal favorite of mine), but it will be continued on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from June 25 until July 18.

After attending the opening weekend of “Tartuffe,” the best way I can explain the play is Shakespeare meets Dr. Seuss, which is a very entertaining combination.

The play deals with religious hypocrisy. While posing as a religious man, Tartuffe is taken in by Orgon. Although the rest of the household sees through Tartuffe’s false piety, Orgon, the master of the household, is completely blinded by his admiration for Tartuffe. Meanwhile, Tartuffe is trying to sleep with Orgon’s wife and his daughter and taking all his money. He’s finally revealed in the end.

“I think what the play asks for is a reasoned approach to religion,” Parry explains.

The stage (pictured above) is bright, bold and colorful, and the costumes follow suit. Many of the dresses are a crossover between traditional ball gowns and short-cropped tutus. Some of the costumes are more traditional, but others — like the son, who looks like a wannabe 1980s biker — are more modern.

The language is singsongy and even rhymes, which is a little distracting for the first few minutes until you get used to it. It’s also significantly easier to understand than Shakespeare, and the way the cast slathered on the melodramatics kept the audience laughing.

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