Tartuffe delivers on comic genius

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By Hannah Dhue, Staff Writer

If you’ve dared to pop into Illinois Wesleyan University’s McPherson Theatre lately, there’s a good chance you’ve been “Tartuffified”. Or perhaps you’ve only heard the “strange tales of strange events” unfolding on our humble stage.

Either way, you’re in luck. Don’t fret and pout. You have plenty of time to drop by and discover what the fuss is all about.

I’ll spare you the rhymes for now, because the verse of Tartuffe gives Dr. Seuss a run for his money. Through these eloquent couplets, we learn all about Monsieur Tartuffe, a visitor in the home of Orgon, a 17th century French aristocrat.

Orgon sings Tartuffe’s praises day and night, but it quickly becomes clear that his family is not quite so taken with his guest. Unlike the blindsided Orgon, the rest of the household sees beyond Tartuffe’s pious façade and into his corrupted soul.

I have to admit I expected Tartuffe to be rather dull before I saw a rehearsal performance last week. Even in its unpolished state, this show is so uproariously funny it rivals last semester’s Election Day in hilarity.

It’s not the material, but the delivery of clever rhymes and biting couplets that makes this production a work of comedic genius. The cast certainly owes a lot to director Nancy Loitz, but many of the actors steal the show with their own personal choices.

There are no words for Amy Stockhaus’s priceless portrayal of Doreen. The animation in her facial expressions and physicality rival anything that Kristin Wiig or Tina Fey could dish out, hands down.

Chase Miller as Tartuffe is a far more sickening version of Frolo from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and yet somehow he also manages to send the audience into fits of uncontrollable laughter.

Orgon (Josh Conrad) and Doreen have such great chemistry that their scene is by far one of the best in the show.

Although she has very little stage time, Allie Torrez makes the most of it. Her portrayal of the fussy Madame Pernelle is simply a riot.

As if it were not enough for the actors to be brilliant, they even look good while they do it. The remarkably fabulous Marcia McDonald and her team of assistant designers have looked the challenge of 17th century French attire dead in the face and conquered it with finesse.

The costumes certainly play a leading role in the production, and yet they never distract and only add to the performances.

In addition to intricate costumes, this show requires every actor to be wigged, which adds some interesting challenges. Caiti Frantzis and Elaina Henderson have handled them beautifully as a dynamic hair and make-up duo that work to make each of Marcia’s looks pop.

All those involved with IWU SoTA’s Tartuffe should feel very proud of the impressive show they’ve produced. The pleasantly surprised looks on the actors’ faces backstage as they heard the uncontrollable laughter of the crowd on opening night said it all.

After that first performance, theater student Liz Carlson said, “It’s so good it makes me want to skip rehearsal for the rest of the week to go see it again and again and again.” They couldn’t have asked for a better reaction.

Each performance on Friday, Feb. 17 and Saturday, Feb. 18 will begin at 8 p.m. The matinee on Sunday, Feb 19 will begin at 2 p.m.  Student tickets are $2 with a valid school ID.

For more information, or to order tickets, please contact the McPherson Theatre box office at (309)556-3232 or visit our website at www.iwu.edu/~theatre. Box office hours are 12:30 – 5 on Monday and Wednesday-Friday, and 12:30-4 on Tuesdays.