The NJIT-Rutgers Theatre Program presented Tartuffe from Wednesday, April 24 to Sunday, April 28 in Bradley Hall Theatre at Rutgers-Newark. The hilarious production featured NJIT and Rutgers-Newark students, many who are studying theater. The play, written in 1664, is one of the sexier ones of its time, and the 80s twist they put on it made it fun and current. The play was sold out on its Thursday show and seemed like a full house on Sunday too.
The set was beautifully designed and assembled and provided great views from all directions. It was a great use of the unique thrust stage in Bradley Hall Theatre. The acts and scenes were introduced with familiar music from the 1980s and adorably choreographed dance sequences. Tartuffe is sort of a timeless story and setting it in a modern context gave it a modern feeling, in spite of the language. They even utilized multimedia during the performance, especially at the beginning when they introduced each character on tv screens.
The classic characters of Dorine and Valere were excellently played by Jessica Perez and Adrian Nuñez, respectively. The two carried the show well and interacted with their counterparts (Orgon and Mariane) flawlessly. Dorine is such a strong female character and Perez played her with confidence and sass. Valere, the lover, was a handsome and charming portrayal.
The leads, Orgon and Tartuffe, were noteworthy performances. Orgon played the perfect gullible, smiling fool who gets pushed and pulled along by Tartuffe’s intentions in each scene. Played by Jack Byrnes, he was the perfect partner to Alexander Nuñes’s hilarious Tartuffe. Conniving and raucously funny, he would have stolen the show if not for the strength of the other parts. The two also had the best and funniest dance numbers together.
Elmire, Orgon’s wife, was played by the classy Allegra Hoffmaster. She held her own on stage, carefully and gracefully, even during the famous table sex scene.
Cleante, the smart one, played by Daniel Ovalle, was clever and patronizing, just as he should be. The glasses were a perfect touch.
Mariane, Valere’s lover and Orgon’s daughter, was played by Rinata Azizbayeva. She played the dutiful daughter well and was adorable and sweet.
Damis, the fighter, was played by Simon Guinto. The passionate, angry character took a goofy turn in this production, to great effect. He was very funny.
Diana Hwaga stole her scenes with Madame Pernelle, the angry grandmother character. She was stern, commanding, and stubborn.
Although they were more minor characters, Loyal, the Officer, and Flipote were all great pieces of the whole as well. Giancarlo Flores, Rudy Mancuso, and Yasmine Gharib all were funny in their own way and added unique touches to the characters.
All in all it was a wonderful and truly hilarious production of Moliere’s classic Tartuffe. Kudos to the actors and all involved, especially Director Louis Wells.