ST PETERSBURG – If you live in America and have yet to tire of this
year’s election debacle, you must be a masochist of sorts. No matter how
it ends, we could all surely use a good laugh and I can think of no
better way than a hilariously-biting look at the sorry state of our
political arena via American Stage’s adaptation of Molire’s Tartuffe.
Making his American Stage debut, Urbanite Theatre co-founder Brendan Ragan crossed the Skyway Bridge to deliver this
delicious adaptation of a 17th century satire so cleverly sardonic that
the Archbishop of France not only banned its performance but threatened
anyone who participated with excommunication.
FSU/Asolo Conservatory alum and one of the area’s more talented actors,
has recently been establishing himself as a director of note, coming off
well-received regional premieres of The Drowning Girls andBreadcrumbs at Urbanite. Out of the black box and onto a bigger stage, Tartuffe gives
him a chance to flex different muscles working with a much bigger cast.
Politically passionate and astute, he was perhaps the ideal director
for the job and the result is quite a clever spectacle.
Caisley’s adaptation throws the play into a modern American setting
during a presidential election remarkably similar to the one that has
unfolded. A near continuous adaptation that occurred almost in real time
still found it difficult to elevate the play to credible satire,
considering it was attempting to skewer a reality so absurd as the one
we are living through. As American Stage's Producing Artistic Director
Stephanie Gularte put it, the spectacle created by the candidates, their
supporters and the media continuously surpassed whatever fictional
farce they tried to create.
Tartuffe is a scoundrel and mooch
who successfully wins the favor of a conservative billionaire named
Orgon who takes him on as a confidant and spiritual advisor, eventually
elevating him to a presidential candidate that would fit right into the
2016 election cycle.
American Stage Improv co-founder Ricky
Wayne is uproariously over the top as Tartuffe, while bay area stage vet
Ned Averill-Snell turns in a first-rate performance as Orgon. Broadway
veteran Jan Neuberger adds a wonderful dash of clever glitz as Orgon’s
Georgia Mallory Guy is delightful as Dorine,
the whip-smart assistant who’s the first to figure Tartuffe for a
charlatan, and Abigail Cline shows tremendous promise as Orgon's
beautiful daughter Maryann, whom he plans to marry off to the vulgar
Tartuffe against her wishes.
Jerid Fox's elaborate and ornate
set gives the production significant visual depth, aided by two big
screens used effectively for multimedia purposes, broadcasting campaign
commercials and other material that pull the audience deeper into the
Tartuffe is a raucous good time that political
junkies of all stripes looking for a distraction that’s not too far off
the green will be sure to enjoy. Think of it as a 90-minute, high-brow
version of an SNL cold opening. Hurry and heal, it plays through Nov. 20
at American Stage in downtown St. Pete. Visit their website for ticket and schedule information.