As the title faker, Hoban presents such scraping pietism, and such a piteousness in his first confession, I wondered for much of the first act whether he was being played as one who to some extent buys his own schtick — he seemed, even when unwatched, to believe his own lines. This certainly poses a fundamentally interesting idea about hypocrisy and fraud, but Tartuffe feels inconclusively played here; the savvy of the con-man emerges and seems to grow on him only after Tartuffe sees his ploys bear new and bigger fruit.
Eventually, Tartuffe does get outed, more or less like Haggard did. But exposing fake pietism and rejecting stringent intolerance are only half the battle, in Molière's critique. Once Orgon has seen the truth — and once the truth has worsened Orgon's position considerably — he and his son Damis (Luke Bartholomew) want vengeance. It falls to Cléante and the rest of the house to once again urge that Orgon instead employ the qualities of a civilized society: compromise, humanity, and mercy.
Tartuffe | by Molière | Translated by Richard Wilbur | Directed by Matthew Arbour | Produced by the Theater at Monmouth | in repertory through August 19 | 207.933.9999
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