The rain that arrived in Brooklyn by the bucketful in the course of Act II of “Tartuffe” on Saturday would usually have stopped the present.
However now isn’t regular for the younger theater firm Molière within the Park, whose identify and mission promise outside efficiency. Initially deliberate, pre-pandemic, as an in-person, open-air staging on the LeFrak Middle at Lakeside in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, the manufacturing occurred on-line as an alternative, the place climate doesn’t matter and nobody will get moist.
Which may not have mattered if it weren’t so good, however that is an implicitly political “Tartuffe,” full of pleasure for our undelightful time. Underneath the swift, clear course of Lucie Tiberghien, and starring Raúl Esparza because the title con man and Samira Wiley as his mark, it reminds us that hypocrisy is nothing new and that the hope of overcoming it’s nonetheless alive right this moment.
That was partly the message of the technical workaround, which turned disadvantages of the format — the shortage of intimacy, the unreal area, the inevitable glitches — into benefits of entry. Many extra individuals might watch, for one factor, and will see the actors extra carefully than common even when the actors couldn’t see again.
What’s extra, the unceasing felicities of Richard Wilbur’s 1963 verse translation had been clearer by way of earbuds than they usually are to unaided ears; in the event that they weren’t, there have been captions out there in English and French. (The French Institute Alliance Française is a co-presenter of the occasion.)
However these are technical issues, not on the core of the manufacturing’s energy and timeliness. “Tartuffe” is clearly a powerful play to start with, having stored its place on this planet’s dramatic repertoire (with temporary pauses for banning) since its first efficiency in 1664. Molière, taking purpose on the downside of weak individuals laying out welcome mats for evil, used uncommonly sharp darts; they pierce us nonetheless.
What abets the story’s resonance now could be that Tartuffe, particularly in Esparza’s hilariously outré efficiency, shouldn’t be actually a hypocrite, which suggests core beliefs, however a flat-out huckster, with none. Religiosity is merely a disguise he dons to gull Wiley’s Orgon, a wealthy outdated man who, with little morality of his personal, is particularly vulnerable to the looks of morality in others. To observe Esparza finger his rosary as if it had been a intercourse toy and Wiley fall gushingly in love with him, is to see how swindlers and dupes depend upon one another’s extremes.
One more reason this “Tartuffe” succeeds in 2020 is that the majority of its principal forged are individuals of colour — and several other, like Wiley, a star of “Orange Is the New Black” and “The Handmaid’s Story,” are additionally taking part in throughout gender. It’s a pleasure to see Kaliswa Brewster (because the daughter Orgon tries to marry to Tartuffe) and Toccarra Money (because the spouse he likewise pushes into his arms) dig into roles that may not be out there to them in additional conventional productions. Notably, probably the most outstanding function performed by a white actor is Dorine, the maid, in a basic soubrette flip by Jennifer Mudge.
However the casting is greater than a present of variety for its personal sake, nevertheless welcome that’s. Because the play involves its disaster, with Orgon realizing too late that he has ruined his household via sheer gullibility, Tiberghien makes a slight however essential modification to the story. Not is Orgon saved by the intervention of Louis XIV, as in the usual textual content; he’s saved by the individuals themselves, lastly utilizing their energy to prosecute the fraud of their midst. “With one eager look, we’ve perceived the entire/Perverseness and corruption of his soul,” Esparza recites, now not as Tartuffe however as himself.
It will be laborious to overlook, or low cost as irrelevant, the allusion to present cons and crises, within the White Home and past. In that context a easy line of aid in Wilbur’s translation — “I breathe once more, finally” — takes on profound new that means, particularly spoken by this forged.
As every actor uttered it from separate Zoom-like containers (and from separate time zones, in Los Angeles, New York and Italy) “Tartuffe” delivered a second of grace I might not have thought it might in our day.
It additionally delivered on a promise of streamed theater I hadn’t thought of earlier than: the promise of approachability. I don’t simply imply that greater than 5,000 individuals had been capable of watch the 2 exhibits on Saturday, although that is massively greater than the LeFrak Middle’s typical in-person capability of about 200. (Infinitely extra can watch the recording out there on YouTube via 2 p.m. on Wednesday.)
I additionally imply that the many individuals who’ve been dwelling and browsing the uprisings on their telephones and laptops will really feel at residence on this “Tartuffe,” with its intentionally pixelated, low-tech vibe and unassuming inexperienced display screen aesthetic. (The music by Paul Pinto is particularly apt.) Because the boundaries to theater as a style come down — this present is free — what comes up could also be a revolution of its personal.