Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Newsies
Serrand's production design is ascetic: he and Tom Buderwitz have devised a scenic design of plain walls and wooden furniture unadorned except by a tablecloth that conceals an actor in one scene. Marcus Dilliard's lighting design begins in pre-dawn dimnessactors are difficult to see as they walk downstageand gradually builds and ebbs along with the day, with symbolic blasts of thunder and lightning to punctuate a point. Sonya Berlovitz's costumes provide the necessary color but they show little logic, blending an expansive blue satin gown with puffy knee-length skirts and 17th-century finery with a men's suit covered in embroidered flowers.
Orgon (Luverne Seifert) believes he's only following God's will in taking Tartuffe (Steven Epp) into his home. He sees Tartuffe as an exemplar of piety and, to that end, he's prepared to sacrifice everything to meet the man's needs. The rest of the family knows better: Dorine the outspoken maid (Suzanne Warmanen, delightfully tart) watches the "abstemious" holy man stuff himself with food and wine; and Cleante (Gregory Linington), brother of Orgon's wife Elmire (Sofia Jean Gomez), talks about the difference between true and false religious observance. Only assistance from the kinga rewrite on Molière's part resulting from censorshipultimately can put the family to rights.
Epp last appeared at the Shakespeare Theatre in The Servant of Two Masters, for which he received a Helen Hayes Award. His performance as Tartuffe is similarly physical but undeniably threatening: the reptilian gleam in his eye, the way he slinks and slithers around the stage, his penchant for taking blasphemous poses. He's assisted by Nathan Keepers as a creepy, ever-present servant.
The other standout performance is Gomez, who conveys majesty and poise as she goes one-on-one with Tartuffe. Elmire and Dorine appear to be the only adults in this production as daughter Mariane (Lenne Klingaman) flounces, son Damis (Brian Hostenske) pouts, and Mariane's fiancé Valere (Christopher Carley) postures with self-conscious drama.
Epp and Serrand are co-artistic directors of The Moving Company, based in Minneapolis. Serrand has worked with many of the actors and designers throughout his career.
Shakespeare Theatre Company