Review: ‘Tartuffe’ at A Noise Within is a delightful revival
“Tartuffe” returns to A Noise Within’s repertoire after 22 years, and it proves worth the wait. Molière’s deathless assault on religious hypocrisy could hardly be more pertinent at present, which gives Julia Rodriguez-Elliott’s elegantly quirky staging an extra soupçon of satirical thrust.
And there’s ample comic skewering afoot, from the opening group pavane to composer Robert Oriol’s evocative faux-French music onward. Taking a light-handed approach to Richard Wilbur’s venerable translation, Rodriguez-Elliott and her reliable design and acting forces run the gamut, from drollery to slapstick and back again.
Deluded protagonist Orgon (Geoff Elliott) here becomes a cat glasses-sporting, Hans Conried-sounding fussbudget, while the titular human fungus (Freddy Douglas) suggests equal parts Bette Davis, Ronald Colman, Bill Hader’s “SNL” character Stefon and a honey badger.
Admittedly, Tartuffe’s fraudulence takes until Act 2 to register, since Douglas’ ersatz piety is all too convincing, and Elliott’s ire occasionally flirts with melodrama. Nonetheless, both actors have a field day, and their colleagues, resplendent in designer Angela Balogh Calin’s gorgeous costumes, respond with panache.
Thus, Alison Elliott gives a breakout turn as daughter Mariane in a priceless ingénue/juvenile pairing with the redoubtable Rafael Goldstein as suitor Valère. Carolyn Ratteray’s witty stepmother Elmire, Stephen Rockwell’s articulate uncle Cléante and company mainstay Deborah Strang’s cigarette-sneaking maid Dorine are among other standouts amid a laudable ensemble. William Dennis Hunt’s climactic appearance, leading a royal contingent straight out of the Folies Bergère, is easily worth admission.
Overall it’s a delightful revival. If the darker nuances at times threaten the cascading hilarity, that won’t prohibit the enjoyment of so swankly appointed, proficiently acted a classical bauble as this representative company melee.
“Tartuffe,” A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena. Runs in repertory; see website for schedule. Ends May 24. $34 and up. (626) 356-3100, Ext. 1 or www.anoisewithin.org. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.
It's a date
Get our L.A. Goes Out newsletter, with the week's best events, to help you explore and experience our city.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.