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Christopher Carley

A fascinatingly sinister 'Tartuffe' at South Coast Repertory

A fascinatingly sinister 'Tartuffe' at South Coast Repertory

Every great dramatic masterpiece poses a question about a protagonist that expresses the "darker purpose," to borrow a phrase from "King Lear," of a playwright's vision.

The classic example, of course, is the mystery of Hamlet's delay. In puzzling out why the melancholy Dane doesn't capitalize on his opportunities for vengeance, the actor, the director and the audience are forced to ponder the philosophical complexities of a Shakespeare tragedy that is so much more than a traditional Elizabethan revenge drama.

In "Tartuffe," Molière's great 1664 comedy being revived in a fascinatingly sinister production at South Coast Repertory, the...