by Jean Baptiste Molière English verse by Timothy Mooney
Comedy:
Full Length. Five Acts; Estimated Running Time 90 Minutes (without intermission). 40-minute version available. Cast: Cast: 7 Male, 5 Female, 12 Total (see details). Setting: Single Interior Setting.

Mooney's translation may well be the star of the show...a comic theatricality that sweeps through Moliere's panorama of humor--from high to low. Mooney is quite skillful at massaging the iambs and bringing a contemporary twinkle to the choice of words and rhyme.
(Back Stage West)

Timothy Mooney's animated... adaptation comes peppered with humor-heightening colloquialisms. Its language is a delight.
(LA Weekly)

Irreverent ‘Tartuffe’ brings the story to life … accomplished and funny. … the main effect of Mooney’s impressive literary efforts is to make the ancient piece less stuffy and more theatrically alive. … Moliere would doubtless have enjoyed all of the contemporary guffaws that Mooney’s irreverent version of this timeless comedy provokes from a modern audience (this production is ideal for young students needing a lively introduction to period theater).
(Chicago Tribune)

“The action zips along at Road-Runner velocity. … Mooney’s cast keeps its physical high-jinks firmly integrated with the text to create a gleefully giddy romp that sacrifices none of Moliere’s insightful satire. … Mooney has mounted a remarkably accessible and attitude-free production. On the night I attended, the audience (me included) laughed heartily – and isn’t that the real test of a comedy?
(Windy City Times)

A rousing good romp...Mooney's adaptation cuts the treacle and presents the audience with the rich meaty bits. A finer evening in outdoor theatre you will not find this summer, at least for certain not one that will make you laugh so hard...
(DC Metro Theatre Arts)


Cast, Set Details

CAST:
7 Male, 5 Female, 12 Total*
* The character of Laurent is often added to this group, and he is occasionally double-cast with the Police Officer, in which case the total would remain at 12.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
MADAME PERNELLE, Orgon’s Mother
ORGON, Elmire’s Husband
ELMIRE, Orgon’s Wife
DAMIS, Orgon’s son, Elmire’s stepson
MARIANE, Orgon’s daughter, Elmire’s stepdaughter, in love with Valere
VALERE, in love with Mariane
CLEANTE, Orgon’s brother-in-law
TARTUFFE, a hypocrite
DORINE, Mariane’s lady’s maid
MONSIEUR LOYAL, a bailiff
A POLICE OFFICER
FLIPOTE, Madame Pernelle’s maid

SCENE:
Single Interior Setting: Orgon’s house in Paris


About Tartuffe and the Adaptation

When the religious hypocrite Tartuffe ingratiates himself with Orgon and his mother Mme. Pernelle, he is taken into their home and promised Orgon's daughter's hand in marriage (even as he secretly attempts to seduce Orgon's wife, Elmire). Everyone else in the family sees through Tartuffe's pose, and his machinations and hypocrisies are eventually exposed, but is it too late to save the family from eviction and to keep Orgon from being thrown in prison? This playful adaptation of Moliere's classic comedy sharply satirizes blind hypocrisy, religious piety, and deceit in irreverent rhymed verse.

The Banning of the Play

1664, France: Le Tartuffe ou l'Imposteur banned from the public stage by Louis XIV who, nevertheless, read it aloud to an audience which included high dignitaries of the Church. 1667: While the King was away in Flanders, the play was given as The Impostor.

Results

1664, France: The three-act version was given repeatedly at court, but Moliere could not get permission for a public performance. During these years the church called him "a demon in human flesh," closed his theater, and tore down his posters. 1667: The theater was ordered closed by the Chief of Police, and the Archbishop of Paris laid a ban of excommunication on all who might act in the play, read it, or see it.

1669: Permission was granted by the King to perform the play in public.

Source: Banned Books 387 BC to 1978 AD, by Anne Lyon Haight, and

Chandler B. Grannis, R.R. Bowker Co, 1978.

About the Adaptation

Tartuffe was my first attempt at adapting Moliere, and I found myself challenged to make the pious hypocrite's particular philosophical bent understandable to the modern public. In Moliere's original, we find Tartuffe arguing the somewhat obscure "purity of intention" angle, which in some lexicon might actually seem well-intended in these days. Tartuffe goes so far, almost, as to place the blame on Heaven for lack of clarity: "Heaven's contradictions / give latitude to men of pure convictions." Pushing the envelope just a bit farther, his egoism rises to the surface, as he suggests that "with great men, our Lord makes higher pacts."

Annapolis Shakespeare Company
Tartuffe (Stephen Horst) and Elmire (LauraTurchin).
Photo courtesy of Annapolis Shakespeare Company.

Excerpt

Tartuffe

Tartuffe
Act IV, Scenes 5-6
TARTUFFE, ELMIRE, ORGON (Hiding
.)

TARTUFFE

My dear Elmire: a heavenly delight,

For your fair lips to give fine words such flight,

They fly about my pate, I catch my breath;

This moment I could die a happy death.

How long I’ve longed for kind word of affection,

Which I now feel in your most fair inflection.

But, by your leave, I pause for just a thought:

What if your daughter’s wedding has now brought

You to the point of warming to this lust?

What proof have I to loosen my distrust?

It’s possible that once the wedding’s off,

My passions might again be yours to scoff.

I fear I must withhold my fond decision

Till you assuage an intimate provision.

I hesitate to act on my delight

Until my love you manage to requite.

 

ELMIRE

 (She coughs, to cue Orgon.)

Such haste, my love! Allow me but a chance,

Before engaging in such hallowed dance.

My dear confession robbed me of my store

Of modest mistress’ bounty. Must my core

Expose to you so fast in all its glory?

Must we jump to the climax of this story?

 

TARTUFFE

So lowly am I, Madame, in my eyes,

Such notion with mere words can’t be revised.

This talk of your affection lends me strength,

But only going to a greater … length,

Convinces me your love is free and true,

And that will be once I have been with you.

And though for now, I have some doubt instilled,

That doubt dissolves when promise is fulfilled.

 

ELMIRE

Your love, Sir, is a very harsh taskmaster;

It dizzies me, and travels ever faster,

I’ve not known man so vigorous and virile.

Your bold attack, from both the front and rear’ll

Leave me with little room to make a choice.

As you defy objections ere I voice.

Can modesty not save a wayward scrap,

Or must you steal my feather for your cap?

 

TARTUFFE

Well, if you are, as you say, strongly moved,

Your ardor, certainly, is simply proved?

 

ELMIRE

But how can my quick acquiescence jive,

With God’s dictates for which you ever strive?

TARTUFFE

Is that what bothers you? A churchish fear?

If that is all, then we are free and clear!

You need not fret yourself about God’s laws.

 

ELMIRE

Won’t holy retribution give you pause?

 

TARTUFFE

I’ll teach you, Ma’am, that Heaven’s contradictions,

Give latitude to men of pure convictions.

It’s true that Heaven frowns on some dark acts,

But with great men, our Lord makes higher pacts.

A pious man made study of a science

In which, through other paths, one finds compliance,

Enabling us to balance indiscretion

Against the zeal of one’s professed repression.

I’ll teach to you of science’ subtle ways,

To clear your conscience and to ease your days.

For now though, let us finish what we started:

If sin there is, be it on me imparted.

(Elmire coughs, louder than before.)

Rough cough.

 

ELMIRE

                     Oh, yes, it nags me day and night.

 

TARTUFFE

 (Pulling out a little bag:)

Some licorice might help to set it right.

 

ELMIRE

No, licorice would scarce get it’s attention;

This one demands some higher intervention.

 

TARTUFFE

How dreadful.

 

ELMIRE

                      More than anybody thinks.

 

TARTUFFE

Now, if you’re still concerned, know Heaven winks

At carnal joys known quietly in private.

Decorum is the way one will survive it.

It’s whiff of scandal, draws out Heaven’s wrath,

And silent sin still sticks to Heaven’s path.

 

ELMIRE (Still coughing:)

Well, I suppose your thesis has been proved,

And nothing keeps me thus from being moved.

I see that nothing short of sweaty deed,

Will satisfy the hunger that you feed.

I’d no intent to take this all the way,

But with no one to witness, who’s to say?

As you seem so determined to engage

And take our courtship to a latter stage,

And as the slightest disapproving reason,

Would sound like a coquette who’s only teasin’,

If this is sin, it’s not upon my head,

But he who idled while I was thus led.

On his head, may the consequence be felt!

 

TARTUFFE

I’ll deal with that, Madame, should it be dealt.

For now ...

 

ELMIRE

              Would you just look about once more?

Make sure my husband’s nowhere near the door.

 

TARTUFFE

Your husband? Why concern about that rube?

He drinks in every story like a boob!

If he caught us, en flagrante, that dull lout,

He’d offer up to God a joyful shout!

And even when he realized, that clown,

He’d chastise you, be careful of your gown!

 

ELMIRE

But yet, for sake of my unbridled passion,

Please look to see that no one waits to dash in.

 

Act Four, Scene Six

ORGON, ELMIRE

 

ORGON

 (Coming out from beneath the table:)

A total monster; he’s an utter cad!

He’s diabolical ... completely bad!

A video of the original Stage Two production is now available from A&M Video Productions. This archive video, shot with a single camera, is intended for producers interested in how it was originally staged.