July 10, 2005

"And when there is an enemy to defame/They cloak their spite in fair religion's name."

Last night, we drove out to Spring Green to see the American Players' production of "Tartuffe," the wonderful 1644 Moliere play about an outrageous hypocrite who dupes a rich man by acting extremely pious. Many things are said about Tartuffe before the character appears on stage, including the fact that he's eating and drinking way too much, so when the character finally appeared, I was surprised to see not a fat man but a scrawny little man. The actor (James Ridge) reminded me of George Carlin.

The theater is out in the woods:

Spring Green

And you have to take a bit of a walk up a hill to get there:

Spring Green

But it's exciting to be out under the stars, and not a single mosquito appeared. They must spray the bejeezus out of the place when the Madisonians are not looking.

With a Moliere play, there's the whole problem of translation. Are you really going to try for the endless rhyming couplets? Some, not all, translations do. We heard the Richard Wilbur translation, which really was quite beautifully and cleverly rhymed throughout. At intermission, whenever I spoke one sentence I felt a strange compulsion to try to say a second sentence that would rhyme. I did resist this impulse.

The theme of religion and the lust for power has a lot of resonance today, so let me leave you with a passage:
These charlatans, I say, whose pilgrim souls
Proceed, by way of Heaven, toward earthly goals,
Who weep and pray and swindle and extort,
Who preach the monkish life, but haunt the court
Who make their zeal the partner of their vice --
Such men are vengeful, sly, and cold as ice,
And when there is an enemy to defame
They cloak their spite in fair religion's name,
Their private spleen and malice being made
To seem a high and virtuous crusade,
Until, to mankind's reverent applause,
The crucify their foe in Heaven's cause.


Noumenon said...

Hey, I've been to that theater! I saw Hamlet in high school and it was the first time I realized how the performance of a play can carry different impressions than the text. Like the way the Hamlet didn't just say "Words, words, words," he paused and thought something each time he repeated it. I never got that from the movie version. I'm glad they're still operating.

bookman said...

Your nature pictures make awesome desktop backgrounds. Keep posting them!

Robert R. said...

I'm headed to Spring Green in 2 weeks to see Merry Wives of Windsor. It's pretty much an annual trip and I'm rarely disappointed by APT.

Being a Milwaukee native, I really can only count on one performance. Sounds like Tartuffe is a winner.

John G said...

Saw Merry Wives of Windsor Saturday afternoon. As always I was thoughrouly impresed with APT.
I'm even more impressed knowing that James Ridge had the lead in Tartouffe after playing a significant role in Merry Wives in the afternoon. Unfortunatly, now that you have me excited, our Tatuffe tickets are for October not next weekend.

Girl Badger said...

You've been heading out to my old neck of the woods lately, Ann! I grew up in Richland Center and worked at Taliesin for 3 years. I've been living in DC for 8 years now. In fact, it was your pictures of Madison that got me reading your blog. (Went to UW-Madison for my undergrad. Still love Madison best of all cities.) Thanks for all of the great pictures.

Crow said...

I've been waiting YEARS to see APT put on Tartuffe - only a couple of weeks more waiting. Ever since I saw Sarah Day, I could imagine her saying, "Now get me out of this place, before I slap some sense into that stupid face!"

Last year James Ridge stole the show as Malvolio in Twelfth Night. It looks like his Tartuffe will be even more despicable.