Anthony Heald plays Tartuffe (front), and Richard Elmore plays Orgon in Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s production of “tartuffe.” - OSF photo by Jenny Graham


One of drama's most infamous and entertaining con artists will come to life when Molière's comic masterpiece "Tartuffe," directed by Peter Amster, opens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 28, in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Bowmer Theatre.

Orgon, a wealthy bourgeois, and his mother, Mme. Pernelle, have fallen under the spell of Tartuffe, a mysterious holy man with more on his mind than the eternal. Tartuffe has even taken up residence in Orgon's house.

Not everybody is easily duped. Orgon's children, Mariane and Damis; Orgon's wife, Elmire; Mariane's maid, Dorine; and Elmire's brother, Cléante, all see Tartuffe for the fraud he is. Together, they hatch a plan to prove this to Orgon.

But even when he is caught in a trap, Tartuffe is sly enough to wriggle off the hook. Tartuffe tries to seduce Elmire, causing Damis to denounce Tartuffe.

When Damis tells Orgon what has happened, Tartuffe disingenuously "confesses" in such a way that Orgon immediately puts the matter aside. What follows is physical and verbal comedy with what OSF describes as a touch of danger.

Amster is in his seventh season at OSF. He has directed "The Importance of Being Earnest," "Twelfth Night," "The Royal Family," "Enter the Guardsman," "Present Laughter" and "Idiot's Delight."

If "Tartuffe" reminds us of the scandals that have surrounded televangelists and others in our own day, Amster says that's a tribute to Molière.

"Treachery, hypocrisy, pride that strangles true feeling, holding complacently to one's beliefs when overwhelming evidence points to the truth," Amster said in a press release. "It's nice to know that certain things don't change. Molière's rueful comedy certainly proves that. One has only to look in the newspapers or at one's own family to see how current 'Tartuffe' really is."

Anthony Heald plays Tartuffe. Richard Elmore has been cast as Orgon, and Suzanne Irving as his wife, Elmire. Linda Alper plays the impertinent maid Dorine, Richard Howard is Elmire's brother, Cléante, Laura Morache and Gregory Linington play Mariane and Damis.

Kevin Kenerly is Mariane's fiancé, Valère, and Eileen DeSandre is Mme. Pernelle. Richard Farrell, Rex Young, John Michael Goodson, Amanda Wilkins, Tasso Feldman and Jason Esquerra round out the cast.

"Tartuffe" was first performed in 1664 at Versailles and was greeted with an outcry by religious people known as "devouts" who were influential in the court of Louis XIV. The king eventually suppressed the play, but it resurfaced and has remained popular.

Tickets are available online at www.osfashland.org or by calling the box office at 482-4331.

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