Molière’s ‘Tartuffe’

(Above: Raúl Esparza and Samira Wiley in ‘Tartuffe.’ Source: YouTube video)

Samira Wiley (Poussey in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, Moira in Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale) and Raúl Esparza (assistant DA Barba in NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) head the cast of Molière in the Park’s eye-opening virtual performance of Tartuffe, first streamed live on June 27 and now available free on YouTube – or right below — through this Sunday, July 12.

Wiley, in a gender-bending turn, plays the mustachioed Orgon, who alienates his wife and daughters while falling under the spell of his houseguest: Esparza’s charismatic religious charlatan Tartuffe.

French playwright Molière wrote the comedy, also known aptly as The Hypocrite, in 1664. But a lot of the issues raised resonate today, none more so than the idea of blindly following someone who — as with Hans Christian Anderson’s Emperor two centuries later, and maybe someone in the US two centuries further on — simply has no clothes.  

We’d like to single out director Lucie Tiberghien and her technical team for taking socially distant video feeds in a new direction, or at least one not previously seen by us. Whether it was one character passing a handkerchief to another, or Orgon hiding under a table (below), we were able to easily forget that this was Zoom or the like, and imagine that all these actors were actually together.

Moliere in the Park, Tartuffe
(Clockwise, from top left: Toccarra Cash, Raúl Esparza, Samira Wiley)

The cast of 11 is excellent all around, but every time she’s on camera, Jennifer Mudge (one of Robert De Niro’s daughters in Netflix’s The Irishman) steals the show as Dorine, a feisty maid who’s always ready with a rebellious wisecrack — and eager to foment a household rebellion against Tartuffe.

Jennifer Mudge, Moliere in the Park, Tartuffe
(Jennifer Mudge as Dorine)

This version of Moliere was translated into English by Richard Wilbur in 1963. It’s presented in English, with French subtitles. A Q&A with cast and crew follows the play.

Curious about other filmed versions of Tartuffe? The following are accessible through streaming:

Tartuffe (1925)

It’s free if your local library is part of the Kanopy network. F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu) directs, and Emil Jannings, who would go on to win the first Best Actor Oscar a few years later, plays Tartuffe.

You can also watch the silent film below, but make sure you set the subtitles to English. Otherwise, it will help if you know German.

Tartuffe (1985)

This BBC telecast stars Antony Sher as Tartuffe and Nigel Hawthorne as Orgon, with Alison Steadman as the latter’s wife and Mark Rylance as his son. It’s available free in eight parts on YouTube. Here’s act one:

Molière (2007)

This French biopic Molière stars Romain Duris as the title character, who disguises his identity under the name Tartuffe and borrows some plot points from the play. It’s available to Amazon Prime subscribers, or for $3.99 from various providers.    

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About Les Luchter

Les Luchter is a former managing editor of Multichannel News, editor-in-chief of Cable Marketing, and news editor of Broadcast Week.

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