by Hailey Nuthals
It’s rare for something so saturated with eagles and American flags to turn out to be a night that can be enjoyed by any citizen of the United States old enough to hold their liquor, but Three Day Hangover’s production of Molière’s “Tartuffe!” was just that. Staged at the McAplin Hall at West Park Church, Tisch graduate Jake Brandman’s modern adaptation of the classic play was rife with jingoist patriotism, sensationalist politics, and a fair share of uncontrolled substances. Under the direction of Beth Gardiner, who formerly directed for Tisch’s Atlantic Theater Company, a classic political scandal goes current.
The production was set in an “ambiguously red state” in a “perfect American home” and followed a “perfect American family” through their matriarch’s campaign to get her idol Tartuffe elected as the state Senator. The perfection of the family was cemented almost instantly when, following a brief opening musical number, the perfect American son comes onstage with an Altoids tin of cocaine. The perfection grows with the pregnant-out-of-wedlock American daughter, the pot-smoking liberal-thinking American brother-in-law, and the clearly-out-of-love American mother. (The father, for the most part, was quite sane and reasonable.) The whole family was headed by a grandmother who spoke only in verse, and assisted by an Australian maid who was both entirely reasonable and completely ignored. The fourth wall was conspicuously and hilariously absent.
With a drink in hand, the audience followed the drama as shotgun weddings were planned and canceled, shotgun murders were planned and botched, and bigotry was mocked with the least amount of subtlety possible. No campaign topic was left untouched, and offensive protest slogans for gay men in the theater and abortion clincs were thrown about left and right. Prop cocaine flew, drinks spilled, meat was offered, rejected, and then offered again. Brandman’s adaptation flawlessly follows the story of the original “Tartuffe” while seamlessly making it relevant to not just this century but this year, and fearlessly attacks modern conservative politics (while leaving some room to mock the liberal pretensions as well).
The drinking came in the form of intervallic rounds of “Never Have I Ever,” where three audience volunteers would be selected to read a prompt and play a round with the entire room. Prompts were tastefully political, like “Never have I ever had sex with a Republican” and “Never have I ever had a crush on Obama.” Volunteers were given a shot (colored red, white, or blue) for their efforts, and then the drama would begin again flawlessly from where it left off.
“Tartuffe!” ended up being the funniest political spoof before “SNL” went on the downward spiral that ended up with Donald Trump hosting. If you’re even vaguely aware of the current state of politics and have an ID that says you’re 21, this show is the best way to spend an evening.
Hailey Nuthals is a Staff Writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org