Moliere’s ‘Tartuffe’ hilarious and still relevant

Francis Tau’a (first photo) appears in Moliere’s “Tartuffe” with cast members (second photo, standing from left) Barbara Sedano, Liam Ball, Barry Kawakami, Todd Van Amburgh, Lisa Teichner and (seated, from left) Bailey Dalzell, Tau’a and Kathy Collins. “Tartuffe” opens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at ‘A‘ali‘ikuhonua Creative Arts Center on the Seabury Hall campus in Makawao. JACK GRACE photo

Can 17th-century farces and ancient Greek tragedies find an audience on Maui? Vinnie Linares, executive producer of Oh Boy Productions, thinks they will, and we’ll have the chance to see when Moliere’s “Tartuffe” opens in the ‘A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center at the Seabury Hall campus on Saturday night.

“Oh Boy Productions is dedicated to relevant classics — plays that resonate today as much as they did in the past,” said Linares. “We started last June with the great Greek tragedy ‘Medea.’ We needed to follow up with a great comedy, such as Moliere’s ‘Tartuffe,’ a hilarious expose of a con man that uses religion as his vehicle — something we surely see daily in American life today — so the play and its message are very relevant to current American culture.”

In “Tartuffe,” when Madame Pernelle (Francis Tau’a) visits her son Orgon’s (Todd Van Amburgh) home, she criticizes all the members of the house yet praises Orgon’s boarder, Tartuffe (Kalani Whitford), for his religious zeal.

The other residents object to Tartuffe, believing him to be a two-faced scamp, but Madame Pernelle is not moved. Upon leaving, she reprimands everyone to follow Tartuffe’s precepts. Cleante (Liam Ball) and Dorine (Lisa Teichner) both agree that he has beguiled Pernelle and Orgon.

When Orgon arrives, he seems much more concerned about the well-being of Tartuffe than his unwell wife, Elmire (Kathy Collins). Cleante fails miserably in an attempt to expose Tartuffe and soon discovers that Orgon wants to ally Tartuffe with his estate by marrying off his daughter Mariane (Bailey Dalzell) to Tartuffe.

Additional performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays March 17 through 25. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students, payable by cash or check only and available at the box office prior to show time. JACK GRACE photo

Mariane, who is in love with Valere (Zac Kubo), is shocked and saddened. For most of the play it appears Tartuffe has effortlessly deceived both matriarch and patriarch of the family until Elmire concocts a plan to expose the charlatan.

As I mentioned in November’s column on “The Wanna-Be Gentleman” (also at Seabury Hall), Moliere’s roguish life was similar to many of the leading male characters in his plays. His father was a valet to King Louis XIII and intended his son to follow in his footsteps. Moliere instead pursued a life in theater. After a few flops combined by his inability to pay off investors, he was briefly sent to debtor’s prison. In time, Moliere’s plays did find an audience, though conservatives and religious leaders of the period heavily criticized his work.

It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. During Moliere’s lifetime, English and French playwrights began to emulate his farcical style. “Tartuffe” has even found its way into French slang — a tartuffe is a hypocrite.

Linares shared what Oh Boy Productions has in store for the future.

“The production cycle will be tragedy to comedy and maybe a mix of the two as well,” he said. “This coming June, we will offer the Greek classic ‘Antigone,’ a searing look at the appropriateness of civil disobedience and its possible importance over the dilemma found between family loyalty and loyalty to the state.

Catch comic Tom Arnold on March 23 at The Dirty Monkey in Lahaina. Photo courtesy the artist

“Given the political landscape of a splintered America today, ‘Antigone’ raises some provocative questions that many American families and friends are facing currently.”

In August, Oh Boy Productions will present a Hawaii premier at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului.

” ‘Albatross’ is a one-man tour-de-force that takes a close look at individual responsibility, our stewardship of the environment and, ultimately, who and what we are responsible for as humans,” explained Linares. “The play is taken from the (Samuel Taylor) Coleridge poem ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ and written by local boy Matt Spangler. ‘Albatross’ has been very successful in New York, Boston, at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and now Maui. It will be the West Coast-Pacific premier.”

I asked Linares if Moliere is still relevant to the average 21st-century audience.

“My recurring theme and mission as producer-director of Oh Boy Productions is to illustrate that a classic playwright, or play from the past, reaches out across the ages and offers issues — moral and ethical dilemmas that are truly relevant today and that require our full attention if we are to seek solutions,” Linares concluded. “The classics do this, for they present issues of the human condition that are timeless. Another reason for bringing back the classics is that Maui audiences have been asking for them. In the past, they were produced by Maui’s theatrical companies, most often by Maui’s great theatrical treasure Sue Loudon.”

Also this weekend

Maui OnStage continues “Cabaret,” music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb and book by Joe Masteroff.

Starting with a drum roll and ending in dead silence, Kalani Whitford’s considerably darker staging of this classic musical dazzles, surprises, amuses, alarms and saddens, leaving you deeply moved and perhaps frozen in your seat, yet inspired to discuss what it was that you just experienced.

The local production is directed and choreographed by Whitford under the musical direction of Steven Dascoulias.

* Performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through March 18 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. Tickets range from $20 to $40. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event, call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.

*****

ProArts Playhouse in Kihei continues “The 39 Steps” by Patrick Barlow, based on the Alfred Hitchcock film and the John Buchan novel, directed by Kristi Scott. This non-stop madcap comedy is loaded with laughs and brilliant comic execution by Lina Krueger, Patty Lee, John Williams and Ross Young.

* Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through March 25 at the ProArts Playhouse. Tickets are $26. For more information or to purchase tickets for any ProArts event call 463-6550 or visit www.proartsmaui.com.

*****

Maui OnStage Youth Theater continues “Disney’s Winnie the Pooh Kids,” directed by Jessica Nelson. Based on the characters of A.A. Milne, this children’s production features songs from the Disney animated film as well as new songs by Robert and Kristen Lopez (“Frozen”).

* Performances are at 11 a.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for children. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event, call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.

Upcoming

Complexions Contemporary Ballet presents “Stardust: A Ballet Tribute to David Bowie” March 22 in the MACC’s Castle Theater.

Complexions was founded as a reinvention of dance through a groundbreaking mix of methods, styles and cultures believing that dance should be about removing boundaries, not reinforcing them.

Having presented a vision of human movement on five continents to more than 20 million people, Complexions bears witness to a world that is fluid, changeable and culturally interconnected.

* Performance is at 7:30 p.m. March 22 in the Castle Theater at Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului. General admission tickets range from $12 to $65 with 10 percent discounts for MACC members and half-price for kids younger than 12 (plus applicable fees). For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or go online at www.mauiarts.org.

*****

The Maui Celebrity Series returns with comedian Tom Arnold (“True Lies,” “Roseanne”) and crooner Brian Evan, plus special guests on March 23 at The Dirty Monkey in Lahaina. A Golden Globe Award-winning actor, Arnold has recently returned to his roots as a stand-up comic poking fun of his Midwest past, marital follies and absurd Hollywood stories. Never scripted and just like his past film and television comedy work, Arnold is a ball of chaos and charisma on stage. 

* Performance is at 8 p.m. March 23 at The Dirty Monkey in Lahaina. Presale tickets are $45, with a limited number of VIP meet-and-greet tickets, available online through www.eventbrite.com. Remaining tickets on the night of this one-night-only event will increase to $70 at the door. For more information, call 429-6268 or visit www.thedirtymonkey.com.

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