Sunday, February 18, 2024

GUEST REVIEW: Rollicking CSC Production of "Tartuffe" An Appropriate Choice for Today’s World

By Jane Primerano, Correspondent

The perfect choice for kicking off a season of “normalcy” for the Centenary Stage Company had to be a farce.

After pandemic shutdowns and an abbreviated season, CSC is back with Moliere’s Tartuffe, an appropriate choice for today’s world.

In brief, for those not familiar with the play, Orgon, a man of means, has fallen under the spell of Tartuffe, a con artist in the disguise of a holy man.

Orgon’s family tries to make him see the light in wordy, fast-paced dialogue. It’s not an easy play to perform, but, as usual, the CSC cast is more than up to the task.

The play opens with Madame Pernelle, Orgon’s mother, on a tear about many foibles of her family. Colleen Smith Wallnau’s perfect enunciation of the quick-step monologues sets a high bar for the rest of the group, but they live up to it.

Orgon is played by Randall Duk Kim, who directed the play with his wife, Anne Occhiogrosso, who plays Dorine, the maid. The stage is set for Orgon’s hero worship and the family’s distaste for his naivetè during a dialogue between the two in which Duk Kim needs few words to bring his character to life and Occhiogrosso uses plenty of words.

Tartuffe is played by CSC artistic director Carl Wallnau (above, left), always a delight in a farce. His expressions and exaggerated physicality are perfect in this role.

These four theater veterans are joined by a mostly young and enthusiastic cast. Erin Clark, who plays Orgon’s daughter Mariane, is a freshman at Centenary and already a consummate professional.

Nick Bettens and Luis Rodriguez as the young and somewhat over-enthusiastic lovers cover the large stage with larger-than-life actions.

Diana Cerkas has perhaps the most difficult role as Orgon’s wife Elmire (below), and she executes it perfectly.

Another demanding role is Cléante, Elimre’s brother, played by Jordan Kaplan, a veteran of many stage productions, but a first-timer at Centenary. His verbal calisthenics are amazing.

The other roles are smaller, but executed to perfection. Even the non-speaking role of Flipote gives Olivia Tomlin, a Centenary junior, a wonderful moment.

As usual with Matthew Imoff’s sets, the Orgon drawing room is spot-on. And an added proscenium brings the audience straight into a 1664 production. The costumes, coordinated by Staci Cocuzza, were amazingly detailed and also time-period perfect.

Tartuffe runs through Sunday, March 3. Performances are Thursday, Feb. 22 and 29 at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, Feb. 23 and March 1 at 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Feb. 17, 24 and March 2 at 8 p.m.; Sundays, Feb. 18, 25 and March 3 at 2 p.m. with matinees Wednesdays Feb. 21 and 28 at 2 p.m. Thursdays are family nights with special buy-one-get-one tickets available at the box office starting at 5:30 p.m.

Tickets are $25 to $29.50 for adults and $15 to $17.50 for students and children under 12.

The play is performed in the Sitnik Theatre, 715 Grand Avenue, Hackettstown, on the Centenary campus.