ACTS revives 17th century play Tartuffe


The Tartuffe cast, directed by senior Kyle Marks, at the Mary Harum Acting Studio on Mar. 6.

The room’s sudden darkness is the cue for the public to quiet down. A chandelier lights up the small stage where three couches rest. 

Somewhere near, a quiet murmur is followed by a fast-paced shuffling of feet. Unexpectedly, a woman emerges out of the heavy curtains and Molière’s Tartuffe comes to life.

The Augustana Collaborative Theatrical Society (ACTS) presented one of Molière’s most celebrated plays, Tartuffe, on Mar. 6-8. 

Premiered in 1664, Tartuffe is a sharp satire of religious fanaticism that provoked controversy in 17th century France. The Archbishop of Paris threatened any person involved in the play with excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church.

Although the original play did not survive the ban, the revised version that premiered five years later became a staple of la Comédie-Française and a theatrical classic. This version, translated by Jeffrey D. Hooper, was set on stage at the Mary Harum Hart Acting Studio by ACTS, directed by senior Kyle Marks.

Tartuffe follows the story of a family whose patriarch (Kale Hellman ’21) succumbed to the trickery of a faux holy man, Tartuffe (Jacob Dickmann ’19), and the chaos that ensues from his incorporation into the family’s household.

From the second the first actress pops up on stage (Stacie Soderstrom ’19) followed by a troupe of actors in vintage attire, Molière’s characteristic comedic style appears with a freshness that can only be created through a talented crew. 

Soderstrom’s Madame Pernelle embodies the very essence of Tartuffe’s parody of French aristocracy and manages to make the audience laugh without the need to utter a single word.

The simplicity of both lights and props helped the story unfold seamlessly and proved Marks’ talent in the ever-complicated duty of making a classic feel brand new.

Combined with Marks’ mastery was freshman Mariah Mantz’s portrayal of Dorine, the house maid. Through Molière’s suggestive dialogue, Mantz managed to create a bright and hilarious woman in an amusing way, making it impossible not to appreciate her acting.

The play was almost two hours long, but passed by as fast as time does when things are enjoyable. In the end, the crew and cast’s expertise made a classic tale, known for its lewd humour and ardent social commentary, a gratifying experience that put Molière’s work on the pedestal it deserves to be and showed ACTS’s ability to make good art.

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