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Spinning Piety and Hypocrisy Into High Comedy

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In Tartuffe, Devious Tartuffe charms his way into Orgon’s household and schemes to marry his daughter, seduce his wife, and run off with the family’s fortune. Orgon remains entranced despite the appalling evidence of Tartuffe’s behavior – will he see through this con man before it’s too late? Orgon’s wife Elmire, his son Damis, and his daughter Marianne must reveal Tartuffe as a charlatan before it’s too late. Molière spins religious piety and hypocrisy into high comedy in this hilarious and biting satire, one of the world’s great plays.

“This production of Tartuffe is going to be everything you expect from Molière,” says Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois, “complete with a spin on period fashion and the brilliantly comic possibilities of staging this classic play for a modern audience. Boston is going to see 2017 alive onstage within the framework of a 17th century farce, and the result will be satirical, smart, and a gut-buster.”

 

Ranjit Bolt’s translation of Tartuffe premiered at the National Theatre in London in 2002. Many English translations of Tartuffe discard the rhyming couplets, but Bolt’s translation remains faithful to the way Molière wrote the French verse. For Bolt, verse provides a vehicle for examining the ridiculous; his imaginative use of language contrasts with the formal structure of the verse to create an explosively witty text. Audiences can use verse to “escape through anarchy into a surreal world,” Bolt says. “The joy of the verse is the contrast between the discipline of the form and the ludicrous nature of what’s being described.”

 

DuBois chose the Bolt translation because he thought it captured the energy necessary for his direction: free and loose while still clever and sophisticated. “I knew I wanted a translation that sang in the mouths of actors — that had rhythm and speed,” DuBois says. “Bolt’s translation reads well, but it sounds even better. He captures everything that is joyful and fun about rhyming verse across languages, never becoming rigid or stuffy.”

 

The Huntington Theatre Company presents Tartuffe through December 10 at the Avenue of the Arts / Huntington Avenue Theatre. For more information, click HERE.

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