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BWW Reviews: Virginia Repertory Theatre Breathes New Life Into Molière's TARTUFFE

Offering up a new perspective to a frequented work is no leisurely accomplishment. As an entry into the 2014 Acts of Faith Festival, Virginia Repertory Theatre serves up a fresh and bold staging of Molière's TARTUFFE, as translated by Richard Wilbur. With as much jest and mischief as one would expect from the play that recently turned 350 years old, the production at the November theatre carefully weaves a courageous and contemporary parallel into its conclusion.

Artistic Director Bruce Miller's hand in the staging and each of the performances is simply virtuoso, emanating decades of experience. Rhythm is essential in a work like TARTUFFE, and while it takes a few minutes for the rhythm to find stride, the reward is well worth the brief wait. However, most notable are the bold risks that Miller takes to bring 21st century relevance. Audiences are at once stupefied and then in complete awe of his choices that pay off.

A conversation piece, Brian Barker's carefully designed and beautifully painted set is impressive and well suited for an opulent home of the 17th century. His lavish furnishings and décor are captivating. The team of costume designers led by Sue Griffin is to be commended for the painstaking detail in each costume that adds significance to the already high production values. Lynne Hartman's lighting design carefully highlights the eloquence of the setting.

The talented ensemble brings with it a contagious energy and lumps on the laughs with perfect comedic timing. Brad Fraizer's Valère is playful and flamboyant with perfect doses of physicality. Mollie Ort's Madame Pernelle steals a few laughs through sarcasm and disrespect, especially toward an inanimate Flipote. Joe Pabst is quick-witted in his delivery and has a commanding presence as Orgon. Ryan Bechard's Tartuffe is sweetly sinister and basks in his own darkness.

But it's the three leading ladies: Debra Wagoner (Dorine), Amaree Cluff (Mariane) and Eva DeVirgilis (Elmire) that really light up the stage and revel in every moment of this fresh interpretation. Scene three between Mariane and Dorine is one of the many highlights of the production.

Masterfully directed, with exceptional performances; go see this hilarious and perceptive production of a classic piece of comedy.

TARTUFFE runs through March 9 at The Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre.

Photo Credit: Aaron Sutten

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