Written by Molière with a translation by Ranjit Bolt
Directed by Chris Abraham
Set and costumes designed by Julie Fox
Lighting design by Michael Walton
Sound design by Thomas Ryder Payne
Featuring: Graham Abbey, Akosua Amo-Adem, Rod Beattie, Maev Beaty, Michael Blake, Rosemary Dunsmore, Gordon S. Miller, Mercedes Morris, Tom Rooney, E.B. Smith, Johnathan Sousa, Emilio Vieira
A Stratford Festival Production presented by Canadian Stage, Crow’s Theatre, Groundling Theatre Company and David Versus Goliath Productions
At Canadian Stage in Torontoc
Having missed this break out hit of the Stratford Festival’s 2017 season directed by Chris Abraham, I was delighted when it was announced that a re-mount would be coming to Toronto.
During the restoration of the Elgin-Winter Garden Theatre in the 1980s, one proposal that surfaced regarding the programming of these two magnificent venues was to facilitate the opportunity for those living in the Greater Toronto Area (including youth and school groups) that might not have had an opportunity to visit either of Ontario’s two summer theatre festivals (Shaw and Stratford) because of the costs involved – costs which have only increased greatly over the years btw – that some sort of collaboration might be put in place so that both Shaw and Stratford could bring some of their most successful summer stagings into Toronto during the winter months.
As you can see by the producing credits listed above, this is much easier to propose than to actually do. Although the Stratford production is a welcome addition to CanStage’s Bluma Appel Theatre, it took two years for it to happen and by now much of the momentum and critical approbation surrounding the reception of the original staging has dissipated. Which is not to say the show is tired and not worthwhile seeing. On the contrary, the production is terrific even if it is for a very limited run (the final performance is today).
My own pleasure at being able to see this Tartuffe is only enhanced by the binge watching of the television series Versailles that transfixed me over the holidays. Louis IV had his own restoration project on the go and a theatre at Versailles that needed entertainments to fill it. Molière’s company of players and their predisposition toward presenting comedies probably seemed like a good idea at the time (1664!) until the main character turned out to be a representative of the Roman Catholic Church who was a charlatan, a lothario and a thief! One should add here that this was no anomaly. There were little Tartuffe’s embedded within the families of the French nobility all over the place. So the lead character that Molière created was well known and clearly recognizable to the audience of his day, much to the dismay of the Holy See.
The cast listed above represents the A list of the Stratford company and there is no need for me to single out excellence in the performances here. Chris Abraham, whose production of True Crime opened concurrently at Montreal’s Centaur Theatre, continues to be one of the country’s most sought after directors. His sense of style and pacing keeps things moving right along to the point we don’t even hear those repetitive rhymed couplets, so naturally are the speech patterns integrated with the action of the play.