April 17-19 & 24-26, 2003
Written by Molièr
Translated into English verse by Richard Wilber
Directed by David Fox
Weber Theatre, Watson Fine Arts
Director David Fox was asked to share his thoughts on the production:
Why do you want to direct Tartuffe?
David Fox: With the upheaval that is going on in the Roman Catholic church right now I find the themes in Tartuffe extremely relevant-hypocrisy, false idols, sexual deviance, misguided trust — certainly very much in the headlines and I think also very much in Molière’s play. Tartuffe is also about that timeless and rather pathetic human need to place people or things on pedestals that they don’t belong on in order to fill some sort of spiritual void and I think that too will always be a timely theme and one that the play speaks to.
Talk about your concept for this play.
David Fox: I’ve always wanted to give Tartuffe a contemporary slant and so with this production we’ve decided to set the play in a very affluent New England back yard, a very lush setting, much like the “Garden of Eden” with Tartuffe being the serpent that invades the beautiful garden. Everything we have done with the production thus far is about trying to plug it into our own time and into neighborhoods that we all recognize, very protected and wealthy neighborhoods that feel or believe they are isolated from the rest of the world. Of course this would be the very kind of territory that a predator like Tartuffe would want to invade.
What do you want the audience to walk away with?
David Fox: I certainly want the audience at this production to revel in the comedy that Molière provides. It is at points a highly physical play and I hope we serve up the comedy effectively. I also want them to appreciate the darker side of the script and the darker side of Molière’s vision. Orgon’s obsession with Tartuffe, how Tartuffe manipulates Orgon and the rest of his family is something that borders on tragedy. It is frightening. I don’t want Tartuffe in any way to be a figure that the audience can simply laugh away. I have seen productions where Tartuffe is played as an utter buffoon and you don’t quite get why Orgon doesn’t see right through him. I think that Tartuffe has to be a very effective con man, the consummate con man, who has the patter down, who is highly intelligent and capable of bringing these people, this family to the brink of disaster.
I think that our challenge and the challenge with Molière period is to find the balance between the lighter and darker elements. Molière writes about obsession, Tartuffe is a comedy of obsession. He creates characters that are over the edge, over the top with some kind of dangerous fanaticism. Be it about money, be it about religious figures, be it about misanthropes that hate the world- obsessions looking at the from the outside can be amusing and funny?but if you get to close to them they are also very frightening and dark. This is what we are trying to convey. I don’t think this is a simple farcical kind of comedy at all. There are farcical elements in it but the obsessive quality that runs through the play is scary and we are trying to find the balance between the two.