Tartuffe’s comedy hits hard in the age of Trump

TARTUFFE by Moliere, translated by Ranjit Bolt (Canadian Stage/Crow's Theatre/Groundling Theatre/David Versus Goliath/Stratford). At the Bluma Appel (27 Front East)..

TARTUFFE by Moliere, translated by Ranjit Bolt (Canadian Stage/Crow’s Theatre/Groundling Theatre/David Versus Goliath/Stratford). At the Bluma Appel (27 Front East). Runs to January 27. $51-$111. 416-368-3110. See listing. Rating: NNNN

There have been many effective productions of Molieres Tartuffe, but none has felt more contemporary and politically timely than Chris Abrahams.

Molieres satire concerns the titular character (Tom Rooney), whose seeming piety has brainwashed Orgon (Graham Abbey), the head of a wealthy home, even though most of the latters family including Orgons children Damis (Emilio Vieira) and Mariane (Mercedes Morris) and wife Elmire (Maev Beaty) are suspicious.

After one family ploy to show Tartuffes hypocrisy backfires and another succeeds, the rogue finally reveals his true colours. He has indeed tricked everyone, but now holds total power over them.

If the idea of a group of people now suffering under someone who essentially hoodwinked them sounds familiar, thats the point of this production.

Trump references everything from fake news to covfefe abound in Ranjit Bolts clever, rhyming couplet adaptation, which is also sprinkled with references to sexting and unfollowing.

And Rooneys bad Russian accent seems like a dig at Trumps possible shady association with Putin.

Sure, it sounds gimmicky. But like Abrahams production of A Midsummer Nights Dream a few years ago, this is a big, broad crowd-pleaser of a production.

Thankfully, the actors are first-rate. Abbey makes a solid straight man, all earnest and angry pronouncements, while Vieira, Morris and Johnathan Sousa (as Marianes boyfriend) are suitably self-obsessed privileged kids.

And Beatys Elmire warm, resourceful, increasingly nervous is fascinating to watch, especially in the act two set piece in which she tries to seduce Tartuffe to convince her hidden husband hes a fraud.

But its Rooney who owns this production. You cant take your eyes off his characters precise, affected gestures, from the way he tosses his mane of hair (the handsome designs are by Julie Fox) and his still, thoughtful way of lounging on a sofa to his hilarious habit of popping Tic Tacs right before hes about to do something important.

Hes one of Canadas greatest actors equally fine at drama, comedy and musicals and this performance is one you wont want to miss.

Note: This is a revised version of the review of the Stratford production from 2017

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