With thirteen Moliere plays in my portfolio, I realized that I had been writing material faster than theatres could produce it, and that the best way to introduce this work to the world would be to create a a play in which some of Moliere's funniest speeches could be explored.
Moliere Than Thou finds Moliere left without a cast, when all of his fellow performers happen to consume "the same sort of shell fish" at one of the local public inns that the company tends to frequent. Rather than actually refund the precious box office income, Moliere offers to perform a "greatest hits" of sorts, and leads the audience (which occasionally participates) through a hilarious succession of favorite speeches that trace his illustrious career. Mooney, himself, plays Moliere, who performs routines from Tartuffe, Don Juan, The Doctor In Spite of Himself, The Precious Young Maidens, The Misanthrope and The School For Wives among others.
This gives Moliere the perfect opportunity to explain his process of working on these plays, while managing to take a few deft stabs at some of his enemies: the doctors, the lawyers, and the sanctimonious hypocrites who would attack him throughout the years.
… Tartuffe is a play about an impostor and a religious hypocrite, who has been very generously brought in to live in the home of Orgon, where he promptly weasels his way into an engagement with Orgon’s daughter, even as he is attempting to seduce Orgon’s wife, Elmire! For once, I have the opportunity to play, not the cuckolded husband, but rather the wicked rake and seducer himself.
Over the years, I have gone to great lengths to point out that Tartuffe himself is not affiliated with the Church in any way! And while his dialogue may smack of the parlance of the pious to manipulate his victims, Tartuffe is clearly an independent charlatan! I can only suggest that those who were the most offended by this work, were not those people of true piety themselves, but rather the very sort of hypocrite whom Tartuffe is intended to represent, frightened that after years of successfully manipulating their victims, they might well be found out for who they were. It is, of course, interesting to consider that, even though the play was initially written over seven years ago, in 1664(!), our ongoing scandals of the present day have kept this work just as pertinent as it was the day it was first produced! …
TARTUFFE (With a powerful low, rich voice, a stillness not evident in MOLIÈRE’s more neurotic characters, almost ravaging ELMIRE with his eyes.)
Because one loves the glories of the Lord,
Does not suggest his works ought be ignored.
We should not put up spiritual fences,
To hide from the arousal of the senses.
Divine works bear our Holy Saviour’s mark,
And in you lights a most auspicious spark.
In you rests Heaven’s beauty, charm and grace,
That tender arm; that throat; that angel’s face
How might I gaze at one built so sans flaw
And not regard the Maker with great awe,
Expressing love, both earthly and divine,
As God’s self-portrait deep in you does shine.
I briefly feared that this affixed affection
Should mask a Hell in woman’s fair complexion.
At once I fled from you against all reason.
I feared my soul might flirt with Satan’s treason,
But soon the notion struck my soul most clear:
One might, to God, through earthly joy, yet steer,
Achieving passage through those perfect gates,
Arising through the glory He creates.
I don’t mean here to overstep my bounds,
To offer up my heart with feeble sounds,
Nor to suggest that I somehow deserve
The knowledge of your loving touch, your curve.
I open here my heart, which you may trample,
Or but allow a taste of Heaven’s sample.
I know, one scarce expects this from the pious …
But let that preference not incur your bias:
Amid the glow of charms that shine celestial,
I lose my modest hesitation, lest you’ll
Discount my love as Christian charity.
My pious stance is mere posterity.
The world may paint me as a soul angelic,
While I know that perception as mere relic.
What you’ve perceived in hot, prolonged gaze,
I manifest in humble loving praise.
If this seems contradictory position,
Fix blame upon the object of my mission,
For no amount of earnest flagellation,
Could keep my keen desire from graduation…
As the scene ends, Tartuffe is interrupted by the entrance of Orgon’s son, Damis, who has overheard this entire conversation. Damis exposes Tartuffe to Orgon, who, unfortunately, would rather believe the pious hypocrite than his own son or wife.
And so to solve the riddle, good Elmire
Allows Tartuffe seduce with husband near,
Positioned where he might observe and hear.
If I might just request a volunteer,
A woman to be subject to his leer
To read the lines and delicately veer
As our seducer makes intentions clear?
My usual victim, tonight, could not be here. (As someone in the audience rises.)
Let’s give the volunteer a hearty cheer.
MOLIÈRE ad libs his way through a brief conversation. He may ask where she is from, how she’s enjoying the show, comment on her “interesting” costume, ask if she’s ever acted before, and give her the script with her part clearly marked. The banter is light, but always with a sensual come-on just beneath the surface; usually the less experienced or confident the volunteer, the better, particularly as MOLIÈRE’s, and then TARTUFFE’s proximity becomes an imposition on the hapless volunteer.
(Turning to play out to the audience, and crossing to encircle the VOLUNTEER in such a way that she doesn’t get much chance to move anywhere.)
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 now I feel in your most kind 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.
(She coughs, to cue Orgon.)
Such haste, my love! Allow me but a chance,
Before engaging in such hallowed dance.
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.
But how can my submission ever jive,
With God’s dictates for which you ever strive?
Is that what bothers you? A churchish fear?
If that is all, then we are free and clear!
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,
Though 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.)
Oh, more than anybody thinks.
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.
TARTUFFE/MOLIÈRE turns from his playful-nuzzling of ELMIRE to draw her hand forward, indicating that she should take a bow. He retrieves the script from her hands and escorts her to the stairs that lead back into the audience. Just as she is about to sit back down …
MOLIÈRE (Still seductively)
You know, if you’d care to stop backstage after the show … (HE notices the audience is hearing everything he says) … I might well give you a tour of the facility!
Best of Fringe: Best Adapted Work
San Francisco Fringe Festival
The audience is enthralled Timothy Mooney is the real deal. A very tight performance indeed, which should be seen by any aspiring actor who wants to tread the boards.
(George Psillidies, nytheatre.com)
#1 of the Top Ten 2006 One-of-a-kind
original, weird and seriously funny
one of the most creative and refreshing pieces of classical theatre Ive seen in years.
(Ruth Cartlidge, Chattanooga Pulse)
Unbelievably expressive eyes and fabulous facial expressions.
a delight to watch
and best of all, he looks like hes having so much fun.
(Janice Sawka, Uptown [Winnipeg])
Outstanding ... He brings the words of this 17th century playwright to life
(Ken Gordon, CBC)
A must-see for aspiring drama students
Men like Mooney were born for the spotlight
every unique voice he takes on fills the room.
(The Vue Weekly, Edmonton)
Absolutely delightful! Tim Mooney is alternately greedy, horny, sanctimonious, patronizing, despicable, vulnerable, idiotic, and just too funny!
a delicate and delightful jester.
(Dr. Sara Gotcher, Austin Peay University)
A sterling performance or maybe I should say "golden," if gold ranks higher than silver in quality. ...
(Dr. Dave Deacon, Texas A & M-Kingsville)
as stimulating as it is funny.
(Dr. Jean McDonald, Georgetown College)
GREAT! Truly, we were blown away by your talent. I found myself "feeding" on it all day ...
(Cindy Swope, The Potomac School)
Actors are only as good as the best performer they have ever seen, so it was an inspiration
(Anne Poyner, Summit High School)
Amazing marathon performance.
One student told me that it was the best show she has ever seen!!
(Kristene Van Ogden, Lake Forest Academy)
Inimitable and memorable
a consummate entertainer and a true gentleman.
(Mel B. Yoken, U-Mass Dartmouth)
All I had hoped it would be: rich and varied, burlesque and profound, passionate and thought-provoking ...
(James Murphy, Interlochen Arts Academy)