In Levan Tsuladze’s production of Moliere’s enduring comedy, the rascally conman emerges the victor while poor Orgon (Nika Kuchava) is deserted by his fickle family, who flocked around Tartuffe (Zviad Skhirtladze) like bees to the honeypot.

Everybody knows the plot. The wealthy Orgon is completely taken in by the false piety of Tartuffe, a rogue who takes Orgon’s property and marries his daughter. Tartuffe’s machinations are foiled in the original by royal edict, and he gets hauled off to jail. The ending of this production aims for a bit of magic like pulling a rabbit from a hat.

Tsuladze seems to be saying, most gleefully, that nobody today gives a damn about decency, that he who is blatantly audacious wins it all. Fine.

Call me a fuddy-duddy but it’s still my opinion that it takes real chutzpa for a director to change what a playwright has written radically.

That said, this production is a treat.

It’s brisk, spirited, and bouncy. The opening, in which the characters (except for Tartuffe), take a dip in a hot tub, is pure fun. The actors really talk to each other, as opposed to reading their lines, so that the dialogue seems fresh and colorful.

The fin de siècle costumes by Nino Surguladze are a treat. Tsuladze also did the set: a textured wall that opens to become doors and windows sitting at a diagonal on a white sheet. Props are minimal, appropriately so.

As Tartuffe, Skhirtladze is admirable but a little too self-conscious, as though saying “look how good I am.” Kuchava’s Orgon is delightfully obtuse, but honors go to the ladies.

Barbara Dvalishvili creates a mischievous and saucy Dorine, the very beautiful Teona Kokrashvili’s Elmire manages to be both seductive and chaste while Manana Kozakova clowns robustly as Mme Pernelle.

I do wish the festival would do English translations, like the opera does. Oh well!

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