Roseann Cane Reviews Molière’s “Tartuffe the Imposter” at Shakespeare & Company [Berkshire on Stage]
First performed in Versailles in 1664, Molière’s Tartuffe, ou l’Imposteur created quite an uproar. King Louis XIV admired this satire of upper-class hypocrisy, but the Church took offense at what its dignitaries perceived to be a mockery of religion. The Archbishop of Paris declared he would excommunicate anyone who acted in, read, or saw the play. Unrelenting pressure from the Church moved the King to ban public performances for the next five years.
As you may have gathered, Tartuffe’s message remains as timely today as it was nearly 350 years ago.
Tartuffe the Imposter is the tale of a family nearly blown apart by Tartuffe (Douglas Seldin), a vagrant posing as a holy man with a penchant for self-flagellation—literal self-flagellation, that is. Seldin, clad as a beggar, works the audience before the top of the play, beseeching individual audience members with mawkish sighs while whacking himself delicately with a cat o’ nine tails. Seldin is a stitch, perfectly unctuous and smarmy.