“Tartuffe” at Taproot Theatre

Despite being more than 300 years old, Molière’s plays are still among the funniest mounted on modern stages. And “Tartuffe” as produced by the skilled team at Taproot is winning theatre for all.

The sanctimonious scoundrel, Tartuffe, is a hypocritical, self-aggrandizing, immoral phony. Despite his evil deceits he gains the trust and admiration of Orgon, a wealthy 17th C. French aristocrat, who dismisses all warnings and proofs against the man offered by members of his household. Not until Orgon and his family are almost destroyed does Tartuffe receive his just comeuppance.

Taproot, using the elegant Richard Wilbur translation for this production, impeccably recreates, on its small stage, upper class French society of the late 1600s. Mark Lund’s set is rich and evocative. Sarah Burch Gordon’s costumes are dazzling. Eleven period outfits, each one lusciously layered and patterned. And Karen Lund has directed her cast so meticulously that not a movement or gesture is out of place. The timing is spot on, and every actor in every scene, through facial expression or gesture, reinforces the central action. That’s an ideal not always achieved.

The whole ensemble works well together. But Frank Lawler as Tartuffe excels in smarminess, and Don Brady as Orgon convincingly creates a man you want to throttle, so sure is he that his opinions are right, so deaf to the good counsel of others.

Not only is this a good production. Taproot offers here an ancient piece of theatre that’s amazingly pertinent to our modern society. You don’t have to go much further than current politics or media to be reminded of Tartuffe and his moral flaws.

Through March 3 at Taproot Theatre, 204 North 85th Street, Seattle (206 781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org).

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