(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
Oh how we need this! Like popcorn from a pan, laughter spills over at Udi Ben Moshe’s well-buttered Tartuffe. Where to begin? With Eli Bijauwi’s banquet of a translation, and it’s rhymed. He’s taken the text and created a five-star bejeweled feast of words.
What’s even better? That the acting ensemble takes those words, plays with them, juggles them, shades their meanings, tones and rhythms and generally has a ball.
They, and therefore we, are having fun.
Ben-Moshe has set the action in a white-walled Moorish-type courtyard with three sets of turquoise double doors designed by Kinneret Kisch.
The actors wear witty Moorish-cum-modern-type costume, some of which are a mite peculiar, designed by Maor Zabar. The toe-tapping music is by Avi Belleli, and Karen Granek did the lights.
That is the background for Moorish and moreish delight from the actors – and plenty of it.
Florence Bloch as Mme Pernelle, enveloped head to toe in bulky burka, lets rip at her family in high and splendid style for daring to cast aspersions on the saintly Tartuffe. She’s abetted by the even more bulky and enveloped David Ben-Simon as the mostly silent Flipote.
It’s tempting to take slithery, slippery, sleazy Tartuffe over the top, but Nimrod Bergman only takes disciplined bites. The seduction scenes, once with chairs, then with the fateful table, between him and Hadas Kalderon’s nuanced and sensuously chaste Elmire, are glorious.
We know the story. Tartuffe is a rogue who has completely taken in his naïve patron Orgon, so much so that the credulous Orgon deeds him his house and fortune. Until the deus ex machina happy ending (two endings are superfluous), the family is in dire straits despite the best efforts of son Damis played flat out by Or Ben-Melech and dapper brother Cleante, rakishly and fervidly done by Erez Weiss, and mouthy maid Dorine to foil the dastard.
Armed with a feather duster, befezzed and pantalooned, Maya Dagan’s Dorine beguiles, commands and enchants us physically and vocally. The only disappointment is that she doesn’t have as much to say or do in the last part of the play.
And then there’s Sasson Gabai, who’s the cherry on the top of this confection. He plays Orgon and he is stratospherically perfect from his first bleated “And Tart-u-u-u-u-ffe?” to his ingenuous horror at the extent of his protégé’s depravity. Such fun!