U Theatre’s Production of ‘Tartuffe’ is a Divine Satirical Comedy


Tartuffe Promotion Image. (Courtesy University of Utah Department of Theatre)

By Whit Fuller, Arts Writer


The Department of Theatre’s latest production “Tartuffe” ran from May 5-12 via virtual screenings on their website. Originally written by Molière and produced with a new translation by Ranjit Bolt, the play is sure to provide an amusing and thought-provoking commentary on piety and the true motivations of a seeming saint.

The production was directed by Robert Scott Smith, whose directing credits include: June 2019 productions of “Big Love” by Charles Mee with the U; SLAC’s New Play Sounding Series reading of “Reykjavik” by Steve Yockey; PLAN-B Script-in-Hand series reading of “Quarter Horse” by Rob Tennant; and an April 2016 highly-praised run of an all-female production of “Hamlet” in conjunction with the U.

A Timely Tartuffe 

With its satirical reflections on religion and hypocrisy, this modernized production was successful in making “Tartuffe” more relatable and relevant. The characters are sarcastic and biting and the costumes are modern and regal, even as the characters talk of “unfollowing” one another during arguments. 

The cast, composed of Olivia Buck (Mariane), Ethan Hernandez (Damis), Connor Johnson (Tartuffe), Liam G. Johnson (Officer), Tristian Osborne (Valere), Alexis Pullen (Flipote), Laura Rizzo (Laurent), Tom Roche (Orgon), Marcello Say (Monsieur Loyal), Em Smiley (MME Pernelle), Ali Jo Stroud (Dorine), Max Villa (Cleante) and Shelice Warr (Elmire), create a dynamic and evocative performance on stage.

“Tartuffe” — also “The Imposter” or “The Hypocrite” — tells the story of the aptly named religious devotee Tartuffe, who has enamored the wealthy bourgeois Orgon and claimed a space for himself in the household. However, not all are so easily fooled and when Tartuffe’s mask is removed, chaos ensues in delightful turbulence. From the passion of young lovers separated by a father’s blind devotion to Tartuffe to the sneaking suspicions of a less-than-devout devotee — Tartuffe is humorous and tense with just the right amount of wit.

Top-tier Satirical Theatre

“Tartuffe” was crafted and performed so brilliantly in this production. It combined the cadence of a comedy with the dramatic flair of a classic play. The interactions between modern dialect and rhymed lines blended into an amusing and colorful dialogue between characters.

The modernized insults thrown between Mariane (Buck) and Valere (Osborne) add a dynamic and interesting twist to the middle of the play. The interactions between Tartuffe (Johnson) and Orgon (Roche) are baffling to the audience, who is aware of Tartuffe’s questionable character and evermore surprised by the gullible devotion of Orgon. The entire cast played their respective roles with conviction and immersed me in the drama and comedy of a classic play with a modernized production.

“Tartuffe” is a wonderful addition to the productions offered by the Theatre Department earlier this past year, including Rachel Bublitz’s “The Night Witches” and William Shakespeare’s “Henry V.” This production was dynamic and entertaining. I found it an almost conspiratorial experience between audience and actor — the cast makes eye contact with the audience at various points — one that leaves me delighted to see what the theatre department produces next.


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