Review Number TWO is in!

Strong directing, cast featured in Western Reserve Playhouse’s ‘Tartuffe’

1/31/2019 – West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

Jim Fippin, at left, and Brian Pedaci star in Western Reserve Playhouse’s production of “Tartuffe.”
Photo: Chris Douglas

BATH — Religious hypocrisy is alive and well in Ohio. Molière’s play of religious hypocrisy, “Tartuffe,” is as fresh and relevant today as it was when it was originally written in the mid-17th century.“Tartuffe” was first performed in 1664 and now, 355 years later, Western Reserve Playhouse is offering an audience-pleasing production of the show through Feb. 3.

When Molière (1622-73) first submitted the script to the French censors, he had to rewrite it twice, in 1667 and 1669, before “Tartuffe” could be brought to the stage. The censors thought the play was an indictment of all religions, not just religious hypocrisy. At its opening in France, the show ran for 33 performances, a record at the time.

The play was translated by American poet and literary translator Richard Wilbur (1921-2017), who received the Pulitzer Prize in 1957 and 1988. He wrote the script in rhymed couplets.

In the opening scene, Orgon’s family seems to be having a family conference. Orgon (Jim Fippin) and his mother, Madame Pernelle (Harriet DeVeto) happily receive Tartuffe (Brian Pedaci) into the family’s arms. Tartuffe’s pious words win him the support of some of the family. Other members of the family oppose his living in the family’s home and recognize him for the hypocrite he is.

As the play progresses, the audience discovers Tartuffe is a religious hypocrite and a leech who uses his devout style to win the confidence and financial support of Orgon.

Pedaci makes Tartuffe as slick and unappealing as a religious hypocrite can be. Molière has given him the pious words, which he uses while attempting to seduce Orgon’s wife, Elmire (Mia Radabaugh). Pedaci’s Tartuffe has a religious fervor that moves him over the top of appropriateness and, of course, generates plenty of laughs from the audience.

Kelsey Tomlinson (Dorine) as the lady’s maid wins the hearts of the audience. The maid speaks for the playwright, telling the truth and directing the audience to look at hypocrisy and the way of true love.

However, it’s Radabaugh playing the faithful wife, who unleashes Tartuffe’s lechery in a scene that is classic French comedy, with characters hidden under the table, seduction on the table and closed doors that open on truth. Radabaugh and Pedaci play the seduction duet like two well-trained performers, which they are.

Fippin as Orgon as the head of the household rushes from one crisis to another, gasping for breath and control of his family. Fippin is at his best as the well-meaning father who thinks he’s surrounded by a disloyal family.

This production gives local audiences a great opportunity to see DeVeto at her best in the opening scene. Fippin is excellent as the confused husband, father and friend. Tomlinson probably has the largest role in this madcap comedy and she follows in the tradition of the strong female comics. I hope to see her perform again soon.

Director August Scarpelli has directed with intelligence and wit. He has made intelligent choices in line interpretation and in movement. With great wit and elegance, he has shaped a difficult script, making it accessible to the audience.

This is one of the best productions to come our way in a long time. Don’t miss it.

For tickets, call 330-620-7314 or visit westernreserveplayhouse.org.

 

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor emeritus of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the Cleveland Critics Circle.

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