A Slippery, Seductive Swindler

False gurus get their comeuppance in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of Molière’s Tartuffe directed by Makaela Pollock. Translated by Richard Wilbur, Tartuffe runs at the Center Theatre March 17-April 12, 2015.

In Tartuffe Orgon’s household is under the influence of a seductive swindler named Tartuffe. This cunning con artist, masquerading as a holy man, plans to dupe the gullible Orgon out of his fortune, his daughter, and his reputation. The pious grifter can do no wrong in his host’s eyes, yet everyone else in the household smells a rat. Just when the jig is up, Tartuffe ups the stakes and the charm.

“Can you trust the people around you? How do you know who they are? Who they purport to be? And that applies to families as well as religious leaders,” said director Makaela Pollock when discussing Tartuffe. “As I started looking at the play, I remembered that there is this moment around the late 1940s where everyone is searching for the next thing to believe in.” During this time L. Ron Hubbard first circulated his beliefs in Dianetics and Scientology, the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous were formulated, and the first UFO sightings were reported. Pollock and her design team have reset Tartuffe in 1947 and Orgon falls under the influence of huckster who has fabricated his own religion. “The people in the play have wealth and are coming out the confidence and swagger of winning World War II, but they’re also sitting at that fearful moment of ‘what do we do next?’ that sparked the fear-mongering of McCarthyism.”

Pollock directed Seattle Shakespeare Company’s 2012 Wooden O production of Twelfth Night. She recently staged The Addams Family in Coeur d’Alene. She is an adjunct faculty member of Cornish College of the Arts, and a graduate of the Trinity Rep/Brown University MFA Program in Directing. She currently is the New Works Associate at The 5th Avenue Theatre.

Hamilton Wright (Pygmalion) returns to Seattle Shakespeare Company to play the title role in Tartuffe. He joined by Peter Lohnes as Orgon, Christine Marie Brown (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) as Elmire, Bhama Roget as Dorine, and Suzy Hunt as Madame Pernelle.

With this production of Tartuffe, Molière becomes Seattle Shakespeare Company’s second most produced playwright.