Adaptor: Jake Brandman
Director: Beth Gardiner
Reviewer: Jamie Rosler
From its energetic and in-your-face opening number, Three Day Hangover’s Tartuffe is a brilliant satire of modern politics and culture. It is also an audience-interactive drinking game and a well-crafted work of theater, so there’s something for everyone except the humorless.
Tartuffe, played by Tom Schwanns, is a Conservative hero for today’s America. With a questionable past and a life that is in direct opposition to the ideals he expounds, Tartuffe is in it for the power and the perks, politics and persons be damned. His campaign manager, Olga—played by a perfectly sharp and cold Carol Linnea Johnson—is determined to bring about Tartuffe’s electoral win from the parlor in her large home, in an “unspecified red state.” Unfortunately for her, her husband, children, and maid are not quite so enamored with Tartuffe, and are determined to out him as the fraud and opportunist he is.
In adapting Molière’s classic play, Jake Brandman does an impressive job staying true to the original while simultaneously modernizing the story completely. Character names are recognizable but altered; that is, all but Tartuffe. Major plot points and relationships are retained; there is hardly an important moment in Molière’s version that does not have a direct descendant in Brandman’s.
There are, however, elements of this adaptation that do not have antecedents in the original, and those elements are what make a Three Day Hangover production so successful and accessible. No fewer than half a dozen times during the play, everything is stopped for a game of Never Have I Ever, complete with audience volunteers and patriotic shots of liquor. These breaks are written into the script, and the cast’s ability to return directly to the story at hand once the round has been completed is remarkable.
That immediacy and focus is present throughout the entire production. From the staging to the performer interactions with the audience and each other, to the commitment with which the actors guide each change, there are no lost moments or awkward pauses. Everyone knows who they are, who they are to each other, and what they want. Costume design by Caitlin Cisek is spot on, with Republican-cut suits and a clear understanding of how characters and costumes have the potential to feed each other. (These are qualities that should be present in every theatrical production, especially when there’s a linear narrative, but are all too often found lacking.)
The venue itself, as far as the playing space, is a wonderful find and works beautifully. The bathroom experience, however, left much to be desired. This is from someone who is not particularly fussy about public restrooms, but who likes to not get splashed by the flushing toilet in the next stall, and who thinks that intermission should at least start with one roll of toilet paper per toilet. This is tangential to the production, of course, but not without merit in mentioning.
Intermission aside, this is another success in the Three Day Hangover repertoire, and hopefully one to be staged again soon.
Reviewed on 21 November 2015