Tartuffe and Elmire

Nathaniel Washington and Ruari McDonnell are Tartuffe and Elmire in Moliere’s scandal-laced comedy.  (Photo by Steve Buhman)

April 20, 2016

‘Tartuffe’ closes out McLeod Theater season

by Vincent Rhomberg

CARBONDALE, Ill. – The story of one of the most infamous scoundrels in literary history comes to the McLeod Theater at Southern Illinois University Carbondale as Molière’s “Tartuffe” closes the theater season. 

The comedy runs April 28-May 1. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. except for May 1, which is at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18, $6 for students. Get tickets in advance at the SIU Arena or McLeod Theater box offices, by phone at 618/453-6000 or online. Tickets are also on sale beginning one hour before each performance. The May 1 performance is preceded by a pre-show lecture beginning at 1:30 p.m. in the conference room adjacent to the McLeod Theater lobby. The lecture is free. 

This version of Tartuffe is the Richard Wilbur adaptation, featuring rhymed couplets. The plot is deliciously tangled. Orgon, a wealthy man, eager for spiritual redemption after recent health issues, welcomes Tartuffe, who is posing as a holy hermit, into his house. Orgon’s family is suspicious of the vagabond’s motives and tries to discredit him by exposing his lust for Orgon’s wife. Tartuffe, however, has managed to gain control over the family home and fortune, and the right to marry the patriarch’s daughter. In the end, the trickster becomes the tricked, and the family’s clever maid saves the day.

Molière ran into trouble with censors with his original version of the play, then called “The Imposter.” He presented it at the Versailles Festival, whereupon King Louis XIV, under pressure from the French Roman Catholic Church, censored it. The Archbishop of Paris, in fact, issued an edict threatening excommunication for anyone who watched, performed in, or read the play.  Molière rewrote the play five times before the Church and others deemed it acceptable in 1669.

The cast includes SIU students Nathaniel Washington as Tartuffe, Chad Ferriel as Orgon and Ruari McDonnell as the virtuous wife Elmire. Zoe Jensen and Hayden Schubert play young lovers Mariane and Valére, whose engagement is threatened by Tartuffe’s designs. Others in the play are: Manning Goldman as Damis, Orgon’s son; Ryan Negron as Cleante, Orgon’s brother; Katie McDaniel as the resourceful maid Dorine; Da'Veon Cori'A as Madame Pernelle; Andrea E. Rendleman as Filpote; Rob Foster is Monsieur Loyal, the bailiff;  and Tanner Garren is the King’s Officer.

Alumnus James L. Moody came home to design the lighting for this production.  He earned the SIU Distinguished Service Award in 2014, and is a two time Emmy nominee for his work. He includes among his credits more than 6,000 hours of television programming, including “Entertainment Tonight,” “Jeopardy!” “Wheel of Fortune,” and “Hard Copy.” The Student Fine Arts Activity Fee contributed funding to his residency.

Susan Patrick Benson, associate professor, directs the play. J. Thomas Kidd, chair of the department, serves as movement coach. Emeritus faculty Ron Naversen designed the set, graduate student Andie Nicks created the costumes, Andrew Beyke, an undergraduate student, handled the sound.