“Tartuffe” play finds modern meaning from classical comedy

The theatre season continues this week at Minnesota State University, Mankato Department of Theatre and Dance with the modern take on Molière’s famed comedy, “Tartuffe”.

Originating in 1664, the show is about Tartuffe, a vagrant wanderer who is taken into Orgon’s home, winning him over by his religious moral beliefs. Winning Orgon over with his pious persona, Orgon promises his daughter’s hand in marriage, even as Tartuffe attempts to seduce his wife Elmire, much to Orgon’s family’s dismay. 

The show deals with a variety of topics, ranging from hypocrisy to blind faith to the danger of being unwilling to see facts that are presented right in front of you. Director Vladimir Rovinsky says that the show, despite being written in the 17th century, contributes to the modern conversation of living in a time where being separated by different views and intentions is still a hard topic to digest. 

“Molière was writing for audiences in the 17th century, but [it’s relevant] especially in the last few years where conversations at family gatherings are hard, especially with young people coming back and being surrounded by older generations of family. The show was a hot topic for ages, about rebelling against the order and that’s why we progressed,” said Rovinsky. “We feel like it’s important to continue this conversation.”

Senior Miles Cowan was interested in performing in the production due to the high energy and stylizations surrounding the hypocrisy that Tartuffe displays. With Cowan being part of the Catholic Church, getting to play the titular character was something that connected him to his role.

“I’ve witnessed the good, the bad, the abuse and hypocrisies [in the Catholic Church] and I thought that taking my own experiences and putting it into the show would be a very personal connection to me,” said Cowan. “I was interested in exploring that.”

The thought of a 17th century play might turn viewers away from not being able to fully understand the dialogue that is used. Senior Isabella Fox plays Elmire, Orgon’s wife and Tartuffe’s love interest. Her cunningness and intellect help add to the show’s slapstick humor.

“When there’s classical shows, the language can sometimes be a barrier as people might not understand jokes, so being so over dramatic at times is just so eye catching,” said Fox. “I feel the physical humor of it all will catch people’s eyes.”

The cast hopes the audiences will leave entertained while learning valuable lessons about listening to others to gain better insights. 

“I hope that they are able to get some laughs, but also see the parallels to modern day because they are much stronger than I was expecting,” said Cowan.

Fox pointed out that the show includes lessons that everyone can learn from.

“It’s really such a feel-good show, but if you dig a little deeper, there are some really nice lessons to be learned such as how you shouldn’t follow a crowd and listening to what people really have to say,” said Fox. 

“Tartuffe” runs Feb. 17-19 and Feb. 24-26 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 26 & 27 at 2 p.m. in the Ted Paul Theatre. Tickets are $17 for adults, $15 for seniors and children under 16 and $12 for MSU students.

Header photo: Dorine tells Tartuffe to back off! The comedy focuses on hypocrisy and how blind truths can cause danger to a family. (Courtesy photo)

Write to Emma Johnson at emma.johnson.5@mnsu.edu

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