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OnStagers Present a Psychedelic Take on Tartuffe

Kali Tudisco ‘15Staff Writer

This weekend, pants will be dropped, screaming tantrums will be thrown and young people will experiment with drugs – and it’s all happening onstage at the OnStagers’ performance of Molière’s Tartuffe, a French comedy which is over 450 years old but will be receiving a much more modern treatment at the Onstager’s performace.

Orgon (David Lemay), the head of a wealthy family, has fallen completely under the spell of Tartuffe (Mike Semonelli). Orgon believes that Tartuffe is a saintly and pious man who can teach the whole family how to be exemplary Christians, and he invites Tartuffe to live in his house. The problem is Tartuffe is a fraud, a hypocrite, and an extremely unpleasant person – a fact that is glaringly apparent to everybody except Orgon himself! Orgon’s family is thrown into turmoil, but he still refuses to believe that Tartuffe could have done anything wrong until he’s seen it with his own eyes. Fortunately, Orgon’s clever wife, Elmire (Meaghan Looney) is willing to arrange for that situation…

Thanks to the vision of assistant director Kevin Welch, this production of the play is set in Boston in 1968, with a distinctive twist that reflects the time period: instead of a fraudulent Catholic holy man, Tartuffe is portrayed in this version as a faux Hindu yogi. In the late 1960s, after the Beatles had made their famous trip to India and popularized yoga and meditation in the Western world, many Americans were drawn to gurus who could help them improve their spiritual lives.

Though the play is a comedy and the supposedly Hindu characters are frauds, the directors have been careful to ensure that Hinduism is simply a framing device for the show’s natural humor, rather than the punch line of it. “Our intention is not to mock other cultural and religious traditions,” explains director Kathleen Sills. “Instead, we seek to poke fun at Orgon’s blind devotion to a man who is not what he seems.”

As the play is a farce, the moments of comedy are hilariously overblown and very physical as well, with nonstop action and several truly shocking and ambitious moments. “The appeal stems from the play’s universal themes and the fact that from the beginning of the piece, we are in on the joke, which instead of spoiling the fun, only adds to it,” says Sills.

Tartuffe will be playing at the Rogers Center for the Arts at 7:30 PM on April 3rd, 4th and 5th, with a 2:00 PM matinee on April 5th. General admission is $10, but tickets are only $5 at the door for students!


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