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Tartuffe! Moliére reimagined

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Tartuffe! As it was declared by various cast members throughout the play, it is not what I had expected. I didn’t know the context of the story, only that it was a tale about hypocrisy and betrayal, so as I sat down I was mentally preparing for a grim evening. But the moment that the cast stepped to stage, I was met with comedy, a delightful surprise. The actors took their parts to heart, and the opening prelude of a director, unsure of what to perform and then choosing Tartuffe, was delightful. 

 

The satirical comedy follows the story of a wealthy man with a great family, who invites Tartuffe, a religious zealot played by Gavin Webb ’26, in from the street where he was homeless and begging. The father, Monsieur Orgon played by Aidan Busse ’27 is enchanted by the humble tramp and clothes him and gives him a room in his home. However, Tartuffe is scum, using Orgon for his wealth. He plots to usurp him and his family, something Orgon’s children and wife can see, but he cannot. Drama ensues. 

 

The cast was made up of all stars who played their parts with energy and joy, but the audience was especially in love with Kevin Kodalen ’26 who played Damis, the more violent and emotive son. The cast’s chemistry was apparent, and scenes were continually tied together by Cora Harpel ‘26 as Mariane and Augustus Lehn ’26 as Valere. 

 

However, the play was not the work of these few — I was astonished to see that there were 30 roles performed by over 40 students. The play was directed by Dr. Elaigwu Ameh, an Assistant Professor of Theater at St. Olaf. He used the ‘metatheatrical technique’ of spectatorship: collapsing the walls of the stage and making the curtains partly translucent on purpose, to include the audience as part of the production, and unveil the messier, rapid changes that happen in the concealed wings. When not acting on stage, cast members sat on the sides of the stage and watched with the audience. 

 

The St. Olaf Theater Department outdid themselves, and I look forward to their next performance.

 

rozell1@stolaf.edu

Jacob Rozell
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