Even though Moliere’s ‘Tartuffe’ was written in 17th century, the themes and motifs contained in this play even today remain absolutely legitimate, in discursive sense of this word.
That is, just as it used to be the case three hundreds of years ago, there are still many good-natured but strongly religious and not overly bright people, who are being taken advantage of by a number of con-artists, which usually come along as deeply religious/moral individuals, whose only goal in life is making this world a better place to live. Therefore, I think it would be quite appropriate to stage ‘Tartuffe’ in the foreground of contemporary surroundings. For example, Orgon’s residence (which in the original place is being described as nothing short of a palace) can well serve an upper middle-class house in the secluded ‘white suburbia’. After all, as practice shows, the majority of ‘white suburbia’s’ residents (especially older ones) are indeed being endowed with a strong sense of religiosity, which explains why it is namely these people who are being commonly tricked into ‘helping the hungry children of Somalia’ by Bible-thumping con-artists, representing countless ‘hunger relief foundations’.
This explains the particulars of how I envision what should account for the proper contemporary staging of Moliere’s masterpiece and for the specifics of actors’ role-playing. As I have already mentioned, Orgon’s residence can well serve an ordinary upper middle-class house in the ‘safe’ part of just about any American town. As for specifics of representing play’s major characters, I would like to propose the following:
Tartuffe – middle-aged man of Caribbean descent with heavy Jamaican accent, who appears to be utterly attracted to golden jewelry. While in public, he never ceases talking about God and about how blessed he is from having accepted Jesus as his ‘personal savior’.
Yet, the donations that the gullible Christians provide him with, in order to ‘feed hungry children in da ole country’ he squanders at the nearest casino. He also is not a stranger to a variety of sexual perversions. Orgon – the simple-minded head of an earlier mentioned household (Caucasian) in his fifties, who literally believes in the Biblical concept of ‘lake of fire for sinners to be cast into’, and who thinks that by donating money to the ‘needy children from ‘developing countries’’ and by harboring Tartuffe as the ‘man of strong Christian morals’ he would be able to win favor with God. Elmire – Orgon’s twenty-five-years-old wife from Russia. She married Orgon so that she would be able to get a green card.
She is very cynical in her attitudes towards Orgon, but even she gets sickened by Tartuffe’s tendency to slap her on the rear, when nobody is around, and by his sexually suggestive remarks, which he utters when one-on-one with her. Dorine – Orgon’s housemaid from Philippines. Despite her heavy Pilipino accent, she is rather quick-minded. Dorine is being in cahoots with Elmire to expose Tartuffe to Orgon as to what he really is – a truly despicable individual, who turned milking gullible Christians for money into the permanent source of his income.
I believe that despite essentially modernist conceptualization of Moliere’s play, outlined earlier, it will still prove itself thematically and contextually adequate, when staged. Moreover, I think that representing play’s characters in such a manner that the audience’s members would be able to relate to them, will only enhance the effectiveness of Moliere’s message (beware of wolves in sheep’s skins) being delivered to the public.
London: Mariner Books, 1968. Print.