Moliere's Tartuffe by David King
Directed by Glynis Leyshon
At the Playhouse until March 27th
By Ed Farolan
I was delighted to receive an invitation by Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver to a Pre-Theatre Dinner at the hotel's restaurant par excellence, Chartwell, followed by a limousine that took me to the Vancouver Playhouse to see Tartuffe. Charming hosts Kathy Eccles , PR of Four Seasons Hotel, and Lynn Cissell, Marketing Manager of the Playhouse, whom I remembered from Livent, greeted me warmly and introduced me to the other guests.
We started off with some sparkling pink wine with aperitifs, which included a sprinkling of caviar in some of them, and this was later followed by an elegant dinner. Four Seasons Executive Chef Douglas Anderson prepared a menu which included two appetizers: a choice of either house smoked salmon layered with preserved lemon and capers with roasted garlic confit and winter harvest oil, or Warm Saltspring Island goat cheese with baby greens, air-dried strawberries, and tarragon vinaigrette. I wasn't particularly sure about the goat cheese, although I had a feeling it was going to be good, but I decided to pick the more traditional smoked salmon. For entreés, it was a choice of either Seared rare Ahi tuna with stewed shallots and Prince Edward Island mussels and pistou vegetable soup, or Truffle scented free-range chicken breast with cabbage and apple galette, and bacon red wine jus. I chose the chicken breasts, and with the Hotel's special award-winning dinner white wine, this was truly a rare treat for me. For dessert, Executive Pastry Chef Dominique Schirmer created an original concoction of chocolate sablé filled with roasted almon and apricot parfait. He calls it "The Imposter" to reflect the theme of the play.
And for you theatre lovers, particularly those who want to whet their appetite for Tartuffe, I highly recommend this pre-theatre dinner which only goes for $39.50! Chartwell's doors open at 5:30, which gives you plenty of time to catch the 8 pm show. This exciting menu is on for the month of March while Taruffe is showing. I asked Kathy Eccles whether this was some sort of a promotional Dinner Theatre package that they were planning in cooperation with the Playhouse, and she answered that these were sold separately. You'd have to contact the Vancouver Playhouse for tickets. Chef Schirmer provides a different dessert every month. In April, Chartwell's dessert will have a "futuristic" touch to it to get it in tune with Morris Panych's premiere of the H.G. Wells comedy classic, The History of Things to Come, from April 5 to May 1.
I was seated during dinnertime with Artistic Director Glynis Leyshon, CKNW's John Pifer, The Playhouse's Acting Director of Marketing and Communications, Karin Micheelsen, and Social & Entertainment Columnist of the Western Jewish Bulletin, Alex Kliner and his wife. It was interesting to see how all of us were animated, chatting about topics ranging from inside stories by Alex of actors and writers who were black listed during McArthy's era, to drama critics who don't review plays properly. I was interested in this particular aspect, and what caught my ear was John's comment: "It's an ego trip for critics who think their opinion is the right one, and the rest of the audience are dummies."
Which brings me now to my review of the play. I think I'm the dummy here, and the audience is what I'd consider the main factor in any critique. If the masses love it, the production must be good. Shakespeare and Lope de Vega wrote for the masses, and they loved them, and that's how they got their fame. Same with Moliere.
There's always a controversy, though, when one tries to get a period piece and adapt it to the contemporary scene, the way David King does. I came into this show a bit wary and saying, "Will David King and Glynis Leyshon pull this one off?" So, being the dummy that I am, I listen to the audience. At first, there are uneasy laughs when the play opens, and I start getting the feeling, "Well, it doesn't look good." But when the actors start warming up, the audience starts enjoying, and it gets funnier as the play goes along. And I say, "That's it. The audience loves it."
That's entertainment. We go to the theatre to escape from the trivialities, problems and boredom of everyday life. We also like to boo the bad guy and get him booted out. And that's what happens to Tartuffe. King uses the Euripidean "deus ex maquina" at the end of the play with Moliere descending from the heavens in his full 17th century look and banishes Tartuffe into never-neverland. But you must see this interesting, almost magical way that Moliere flies in from the skies, and does his gyrations. The magic of theatre! Kudos to the technical staff!
And naturally, congratulations to Director Glynis Leyson, cast and crew. I enjoyed in particular the performances of Meredith Bain Woodward as Mrs. Pernelle, and Tom Wood as Orgon. Projection and energy one could see in seasoned actors!
Finally, I just want to say that approaching classical plays from a contemporary standpoint can be good or bad. It could turn out bad if the contemporaneity loses the context of the original script. However, if it's well adapted and directed, the way it was done here, then this is great, because we're making the classics more understandable to a contemporary audience.