Rhode Island College's opening show of their season is Moliere's "Tartuffe" also known as The Imposter or The Hypocrite. This contemporary version of Moliere's bawdy comedy is set in Newport, Rhode Island. Written in the 1660's the show is fresh today as it was back then with its observation of human nature both good and bad. Tartuffe is a beacon of piety and in the home of wealthy merchant Orgon, he has his feet firmly under the table. But all is not as it seems and as Orgon becomes more enraptured with his new companion, the city is chattering. Is he a friend, a fraud, a miracle or a hypocrite? The family smells a rat, and they hatch a cunning plan to outwit the wily deceiver before he brings their house crashing down. Director Jamie Taylor casts some talented college performers in these madcap roles with all the misunderstandings and the battle of wits with mercurial shifts from the sacred to the profane, soaring poetry and base humor with bawdy humor. Jamie and his cast's take on Moliere's French satire is filled with topnotch pacing filled with witticisms and shtick that keep the audience entertained all night long.
The character of Tartuffe represents those members of society who preach religious piety but don't themselves live by the morals they try to force on others. This play was highly controversial at the time it was written and was banned from public performances for five years. The gorgeous set is by Alan Pickhart and the breathtaking costumes are by Marcia Zammerelli. Playing the wily and unscrupulous Tartuffe is Ryan Field. Tartuffe doesn't appear for quite awhile but it is well worth the wait as his character oozes evil incarnate. His first entrance has him in his shorts that look like a diaper, carrying a huge cross with an enormous wooden rosary around his neck. He plays this over the top role splendidly especially when he is deceiving the others around him. Ryan pretends to have a stigmata on his hands to fool Orgon and his attempted sex scene with Elmire has to be seen to be believed. One of his funniest lines is "I am molesting your dress." David Sackal marvelously plays Orgon. His bombastic and ridiculous praising of Tartuffe is hilarious. David commands the stage with his line delivery and physical humor, giving a brilliant portrayal. His slow burns at the annoying interruptions of Dorine and his nervous breakdown scene in the second act stops the show with its hilarity. The long suffering wife, Elmire is excellently played by beautiful statuesque blonde, Aimee Rose Willet. Her antics as Elmire have to be seen to be believed especially when she ensnares Tartuffe in her trap. Aimee runs roughshod over this con artist perfectly. She has great interactions with the other performers. Stevie Smith plays Elmire's brother, Cleante who keeps trying to find a peaceful solution to the problems that face the family. He does a wonderful job as the peacemaker in this wacky and out of control household.
The bossy maid who knows everything that is happening in the house is excellently played by beautiful brunette, Rachel Perry. She is a whirling dervish as Dorine, running all over the set and scolding people at their stupidity, delivering some hilarious and witty one liners. Some of her funniest moments are when she tries to repair Valere and Marianne's relationship, constantly interrupt Orgon and her funniest line is "He ripped up my copy of 50 Shades of Gray." Orgon's overbearing and tyrannical mother is wonderfully played by Kelli Noonan. Madame Pernelle is the bitch from hell who runs roughshod over her family but eventually gets her comeuppance. Orgon's son, Damis is played by Neil Jeronimo. He is terrific as the angry young son who tries to defend his stepmother's honor when he catches Tartuffe trying to seduce her and chokes him with Tartuffe's wooden rosary. Only to be disowned by his father for revealing Tartuffe's sinister behavior. He is a hoot in the second act when he enters with a gun and machete to do the blighter in. Marianne, Orgon's daughter is wonderfully played by gorgeous blonde, Sarah Reed. She is incredulous that her father wants her to marry Tartuffe when she is already engaged to Valere and madly in love with him. Sarah's constant retching when her father says she has to marry Tartuffe is hilarious. She plays this dumb blonde to the hilt. Ben Royer is topnotch as the dashing, young romantic lead, Valere. His first entrance delivers the love/hate relationship that Dorine has to clear up. He delivers the goods as this spoiled rich, Newporter. However the last word of the show belongs to Aaron Blanck who reveals what happens to the family according to the decree of the President and some of Tartuffe's past secrets are revealed in a humorous manner. Not wanting to spoil the outcome for the audience, and the show's many twists and turns, I want to say be sure to catch a fantastic, funny farce "Tartuffe" that will leave you rolling in the aisles with laughter. Kudos to Jamie and his multi-talented college performers.