MSU Theatre and Dance Presents Moliere's 'Tartuffe'

Mar 27, 2015

Missouri State University Theatre and Dance performs one of classical theatre's most popular comedies, Moliere's "Tartuffe," this weekend.
Credit (Poster design courtesy MSU Theatre and Dance)

Missouri State University Theatre and Dance Department presents one of classical theatre's most enduringly popular comedies, "Tartuffe" by Molière, through Saturday March 28 at 7:30pm, and 2:30pm Sunday the 29th in Craig Hall Coger Theatre.

Asked what makes a 350-year-old French play relevant to modern audiences, MSU Associate Professor Sara Brummel, who directed the production, simply says, “It’s funny! People like to laugh. I think also that hypocrisy is alive and well in every generation. Moliere liked to present ridiculous behavior on stage and to point that up, at a time when people wanted to present themselves as reasoned and logical.”

A comedy of bourgeois values and religious hypocrisy, "Tartuffe" was banned by King Louis XIV soon after its premiere in 1664. The Archbishop of Paris issued an edict threatening excommunication for anyone who watched, performed in or read the play. Molière defended his work, noting that the juxtaposition of opposites — good and bad, right and wrong, wisdom and folly, truth and falsehood, the rational and the unreasonable — is at the heart of all comedy.  Fortunately for generations of happy theatre-goers, the controversy surrounding Molière’s insightful play eventually lifted. 

And as Sara Brummel says, “the version we have now was a re-write—I think Moliere re-wrote it two or three times.  No one knows what that original version was like.  From my research, Louis XIV himself supported Moliere, but felt pressure from the church.”

Tartuffe is a charlatan whose false piety and ulterior motives are obvious to everybody--except his gullible victim Orgon—and his mother.  Orgon's family tries to intervene, but their efforts backfire.  MSU student Caleb Norman plays Tartuffe.  “First of all, he wants Orgon’s wealth for himself, and he’ll go to any means to get it—if it means playing the piety, if it’s playing against Orgon’s own guilt for his sins, that’s what Tartuffe is going to do. And more importantly, Tartuffe has a weakness: a lust for certain women, and one of those women is Orgon’s wife!”

This production uses the classic English translation of Richard Wilbur, which uses rhymed couplets to retain an essential flavor of Moliere’s original verse.

For ticket information call 836-7678 or visit www.missouristatetix.com.