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Beware! Appearances can be deceiving!



Directed by Richard Baird, this hilarious, neoclassical farce began April 17th at The Laguna Playhouse and ends May 5th, delivering one of the most enduring comedic masterpieces of all time.


An astonishingly clever adaptation that bursts with fun, we witness the charlatan Tartuffe worming his way into a wealthy family causing disruption and pandemonium along the way. With wicked precision and brilliantly rhyming iambic pentameter, this highly satiric comedy skewers religious hypocrisy, duplicity, lust, and self-inflicted chaos. Anyone who loves watching a fraud get his due will revel in this classic comedy.


Melanie Lora, Bruce Turk and Bo Foxworth in Laguna Playhouse's Tartuffe.

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin was born in 1622 in Paris, the son of the Royal Upholsterer (a respected if unusual title). Instead of following in his father’s line as the next upholsterer to the King, young Poquelin ran off to join the theatre. To save his family from this embarrassment, he took the nom de plume of an infamous libertine, Molière.


While he had yearned to be a great tragedian, he found that the audience was disposed to laugh at him, so Molière adjusted to satiric comedy, focusing on human weaknesses: jealousy, misanthropy, miserliness and in Tartuffe’s case—hypocrisy. The play was originally titled TARTUFFE, THE HYPOCRITE, but after the very first reading of TARTUFFE in 1664, the church and jealous rivals called for its immediate banning.


Rogelio Douglas III, Bo Foxworth and Bruce Turk in Laguna Playhouse's Tartuffe

Molière’s response? He simply added two more acts, new characters and further proof of Tartuffe’s villainy to convince King Louis XIV that the play was not in fact anti-religious, but anti-hypocrite. Still, it wasn’t until five years later, after many rewrites and supplications to the King, that TARTUFFE was finally allowed to be performed for the public, starring Molière himself as “Orgon.” But to ward off detractors, the play was presented under a new title—TARTUFFE THE IMPOSTER. It was a massive hit, although no text for this adaptation has survived.


A second version, L'Imposteur, was in five acts and performed only once, then was immediately banned also by the Archbishop of Paris. The largely-final, revised third version, simply named TARTUFFE, was highly successful, and is the one that is generally performed today.


Rosina Reynolds and Rogelio Douglas III in Laguna Playhouse's Tartuffe

A lot goes on in the play and I don’t want to give spoilers, but here’s a real quick outline of the plot: The play opens outside the Parisian home of protagonist Orgon. Present are his mother, Madame Pernelle (Rosina Reynolds), his adult children, Mariane (Shanté DeLoach) and Damis (Rogelio Douglas III), stepmother Elmire (Melanie Lora), her brother Cleante (Christopher M. Williams), and maid Dorine (Katie Karel). Orgon (Bo Foxworth) is away serving the king. Right away we see Madame Pernelle declaring she is leaving the chaotic house, admonishing the members of the family one by one.


Talk eventually turns to Tartuffe, a religious man of alleged poverty whom Orgon has befriended and moved into their house. His presence in the home provides many rules and showy displays of piousness, which the family members feel are insincere. When Orgon returns home, he’s only interested in Tartuffe’s well-being, showing his obsession with the character.


The Company of Tartuffe, Now Playing at Laguna Playhouse

In Act II, the focus is on Mariane, who is betrothed to Valère (Jared Van Heel). Orgon is of course the matchmaker and final say of her marriage and has a quick change of heart. Now he wants Mariane to marry Tartuffe. Mariane becomes despondent and when Valère receives word of Mariane’s new engagement, it becomes quite disruptive. But Dorine the maid intervenes and comes up with a plan to stop Mariane’s engagement to Tartuffe.


In Act III that plan goes awry as Tartuffe (Bruce Turk) makes his first appearance. Enter Elmire, who is demanding that Tartuffe end his engagement to Mariane. But Tartuffe has other plans for Elmire, who finds her very attractive. The lad Damis, who has seen everything, declares Tartuffe a traitor and tells Orgon what has transpired. Unfortunately, Orgon doesn’t believe him and orders him to leave. To complicate matters further, Orgon declares Tartuffe the beneficiary to his estate. You see where this is going?


The Company of Tartuffe, Now Playing at Laguna Playhouse

Eventually the family’s frustration with Orgon’s obsession reaches a climax, there’s also a mysterious box involved containing secret papers which Orgon gave Tartuffe earlier for safe keeping. Tartuffe becomes a turncoat and schemes to have Orgon arrested, but in a surprise twist, goes to the slammer himself from warrants issued by the prince of France. So it’s a somewhat happy ending for all—except our antagonist.


Bruce Turk’s Tartuffe is amazing as the charlatan who has faked holy poverty and religious fervor to attract Orgon’s admiration, and, who has succeeded so well he now lives in Orgon’s house. Keeping up his public image with extreme acts of penance and ostentatious charity, Mr. Turk seems to revel in the title role, gorging on food and wine and leering at all the women in Orgon’s household.


Melanie Lora is enchanting, witty and fashionable as Elmire and shows incredible focus and engagement. She always seems to have an internal dialogue, and always wary to avoid scandal. Shanté DeLoach’s Mariane reminds me of a lovely Juliet and had the audience, me included, sympathizing with her character. An emotional adolescent who is deeply in love, she is heartbroken her father is forcing her to marry Tartuffe.


Christopher M. Williams is regal as he plays Cléante, a voice of reason and moderation (whose speeches bordered on the pompous) dispensing wise thoughts and commonsense positions. Jared Van Heel as Loyal is also a force to be reckoned with showing us both a perfectly amusing and terrifying performance. And young, hot-headed Damis (Rogelio Douglas III) shows off his bravado with threats of violence, especially against Tartuffe.


Rosina Reynolds, who portrays Madame Pernelle, Orgon’s mother and constant critic of Elmire, creates a notable role in the play, using piety as a weapon. Bo Foxworth, as the wealthy middle-aged Orgon, is award worthy as he assumes a character who is not only stubborn and gullible, but who has succumbed to religious zealotry, using morality to exercise power over his family. Dorine, the maid to Marian, is played wonderfully by Katie Karel. Ms. Karel’s Dorine is by far the most truthful, clear-headed and competent member of Orgon’s house, totally worldly, totally self-confident.


Compliments to the creative forces behind this production. Actually, it’s much harder than it looks to pull off a farce such as this. Set in the era of King Louis XVI of France, this sardonic comedy caused quite a stir when it opened as I mentioned earlier, creating an exposé of the times. It’s now a delightfully funny play that bridges the gap between classical text while using a modern twist. So, be prepared for some surprise laugh-out-loud scenarios as this old story unfolds under a modern audience as they compare it to today’s politics, society, and family values.


CAST: Shanté DeLoach as Mariane; Rogelio Douglas III as Damis; Bo Foxworth as Orgon; Katie Karel as Dorine; Melanie Lora as Elmire; Kate Rose Reynolds as Flipote/Police Officer/Laurent; Rosina Reynolds as Mme. Pernelle; Bruce Turk as Tartuffe; Jared Van Heel as Valere/M. Loyal; Christopher M. Williams as Cleante.

Directed by Richard Baird; Scenic Design by Marty Burnett; Costume Design by Elisa Benzoni; Lighting Design by Matt Novotny; Sound Design by Ian Scot; Co-Props Design by Matt FitzGerald, Tessia Iadicicco; Hair and Wig Design by Peter Herman Production Stage Manager Vernon Willet. Run time: About 2 hours, 20 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission. Performances are Wednesdays through Fridays at 7:30pm; Saturdays at 2:00pm & 7:30pm; Sundays at 1:00pm & 5:30pm. There will be added performances on Thursday, April 25 at 2:00pm and Tuesday, April 30 at 7:30pm. There will be no performance on Sunday, May 5 at 5:30pm. Tickets range from $45 - $84 and can be purchased online at or by calling (949) 497-2787.

Chris Daniels

Arts & Entertainment Reviewer

The Show Report

PHOTO CREDIT:  Jason Niedle


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