The Acting Company, now with fewer Juilliard graduates and more hoi polloi, brings us two productions from its tour: Tartuffe and Twelfth Night, remarkably poor choices for New York. A more promising Tartuffe will soon be on view in Central Park, and a very ambitious Twelfth Night recently played Lincoln Center. Even aside from that, why keep harping on the three or four overexposed Molière plays when so many others remain overlooked? Why, for example, have we never had a George Dandin?
In the past, the Acting Company has always boasted a few genuine talents; in this Tartuffe, half of which I suffered through, I couldn’t detect a single one. A couple of performers had good voices, but none would I want to see again. The late Garland Wright’s staging was here re-created by his assistant, Mark Ax, and, combined with Troy Hourie’s unfortunate set, it is a mess.
Despite Richard Wilbur’s faithful and enchanting verse translation, Wright saw fit to tart up Tartuffe with wholly unnecessary, distracting busyness. All sorts of posturing and roistering, gun-brandishing and racing up and down a staircase and across a gallery, do not cover up uncertain verse-speaking, inelegant demeanor, and charmless personalities. There are, to be sure, three young ladies willing to share considerable portions of their capacious bosoms with us, but that was not – except for one brief moment – Molière’s chief concern.