Molière’s Tartuffe Cheerfully Skewers Religious Hypocrisy Feb. 3-March 11 at PlayMakers Rep

Joey Collins and Nemuna Ceesay star as Tartuffe and Elmire in Tartuffe at PRC (photo by HuthPhoto)
Joey Collins and Nemuna Ceesay star as Tartuffe and Elmire in Tartuffe at PRC (photo by HuthPhoto)
Joey Collins and Nemuna Ceesay star as Tartuffe and Elmire in <em>Tartuffe</em> at PRC (photo by HuthPhoto)
Joey Collins and Nemuna Ceesay star as Tartuffe and Elmire in Tartuffe at PRC (photo by HuthPhoto)

PlayMakers Repertory Company will stage David Ball’s cheeky new English adaptation of Tartuffe, French playwright and actor Molière’s zany comedy, on Feb. 3-March 11 in the Paul Green Theatre in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art. This knee-slapper, which will be directed by New York City director Saheem Ali and performed in rotating repertory with The Christians by 2017 Tony Award® for Best Play nominee Lucas Hnath, will preview on Feb. 3, 7, and 8; officially open at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10th; and then run Feb. 11, 15-17, 20, 21, 24, and 25; March 1, 2, 6, 7, 10, and 11.

Tartuffe (or The Imposter) cheerfully skewers blind faith and religious hypocrisy. Written in 1664, this celebrated French comedy was officially banned from public performance by King Louis XIV, a.k.a. The Sun King, until 1669. (Warning: Molière’s irreverent zingers will not only scorch the shorts of the play’s title character, but will also make the self-righteous self-appointed ayatollahs of the Religious Right — and conmen of all stripes — squirm in the saddles of their high horses!)

According to PlayMakers Rep:

“This classic French comedy, in an exciting and accessible new adaptation, is as relevant and incisive as the day it was written. Tartuffe [played by Broadway and Off-Broadway veteran Joey Collins], a conman masquerading as a holy man, is welcomed into the household of the wealthy Orgon [PlayMakers mainstay Ray Dooley]. Once he has the old man under his spell, Tartuffe plots to steal Orgon’s wife [Nemuna Cessay as Elmire], his estate, and probably even the kitchen sink. Orgon’s blind faith proves catastrophic, as he loses almost everything when Tartuffe’s hypocrisy takes a darker turn.

“‘Sometimes you choose plays, and sometimes plays choose you. Tartuffe chose me, and I cannot tell you how delightful it was to read David Ball’s brilliant adaptation when PlayMakers asked me to direct,’ says director [Sasheem] Ali. ‘As I thought about why this piece still speaks to us, I was struck by the characters’ search for truth and veracity — when it’s hidden and when it’s right in front of them — and how that is eternally relevant. As with really great works, it’s also a delight to sit back and let the abandon and sheer theatricality of it all take us away.’

“‘In the hands of Saheem and his amazing creative team, this production of Tartuffe brings a fresh, sometimes outrageous and always entertaining turn to this classic comedy,’ says PlayMakers producing artistic director Vivienne Benesch. ‘I chose this play to run side by side with Lucas Hnath’s The Christians because I really wanted to explore along with our audiences the notion of how who we believe shapes what we believe — for good or bad. Doing two plays in repertory challenges every part of our phenomenal company, and the result is a wonderfully rich, nuanced and compassionate dialogue with our audience on a topic that so important today.'”

PlayMakers adds:

Tartuffe features Joey Collins as Tartuffe (Broadway’s The Glass Menagerie [with Jessica Lange] and Suddenly Last Summer at Berkeley Rep) and Nemuna Cessay as Elmire (Great Expectations at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and The Unfortunates at Joe’s Pub at The Public) in their PlayMakers debuts. Both will double in central roles in Lucas Hnath’s The Christians. Also featured in Tartuffe are PlayMakers company members Ray Dooley as Orgon (A Christmas Carol, Twelfth Night, Three Sisters), Katherine Hunter-Williams as Madame Pernelle (Dot, Trouble in Mind), Shanelle Nicole Leonard as Dorine (Sense and Sensibility, Intimate Apparel), Rishan Dhamija as Cleante (Dot, The May Queen), April Mae Davis as Mariane (Sense and Sensibility, Fences at Studio 321), Adam Poole as Valere (Dot, Sweeney Todd at Theatre Raleigh), and Brandon Haynes as Damis (As You Like It and A Raisin in the Sun at VSU Theatre and Dance).”

The PlayMakers Rep cast also includes Carlos Alcala and Connor Nielsen as Tartuffe’s Men, David Fine as Filpote, and Alex Givens as an Officer.

Also according to PlayMakers Rep:

“The creative team of Tartuffe includes: Saheem Ali (director), Alexis Distler (scenic designer), Anne Kennedy (costume designer), Oliver Wason (lighting designer), Palmer Hefferan (sound designer), [John Patrick (vocal coach),] Adam Versenyi (dramaturg), Liz Ray (stage manager), and Jennifer Caster (assistant stage manager).

“[WARNING:] Tartuffe is recommended for audiences 14 and older.

SECOND OPINION: Jan. 31st Durham, NC Indy Week mini-previews by Byron Woods:

PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Molière’s TARTUFFE at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 3, 7, and 8 Previews; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 10 Official Opening; 2 p.m. Feb. 11; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15 and 16; 2 p.m. Feb. 17; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20, 21, and 24; 2 p.m. Feb. 25, 7:30 p.m. March 1, 2, 6, 7, and 10; and 2 p.m. March 11 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art, 150 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

TICKETS: $15-$48 ($10 UNC students and $12 other college students), with discounts for UNC faculty and staff and U.S. military personnel.

BOX OFFICE: 919-962-PLAY,, or

GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919-962-PLAY (7529),, or

SHOWS: and

2017-18 SEASON:

PRESENTER:,,,, and

PRC BLOG (Page to Stage):



NOTE 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices will be available at all performances.

NOTE 2: There will be a gala opening-night performance, starting at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10th.

NOTE 3: There will be an All-Access Performance, with sign-language interpretation and audio description by Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 20th.

NOTE 4: There will be FREE post-show discussions, with members of the cast and creative team, following the show’s 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21st, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25th, performances.

NOTE 5: There will be an Open Captioning Performance at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17th (for more information, click here).

NOTE 6: The North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society will sponsor a FREE post-show Mindplay psychoanalytic discussion on “The Charm of a Snake,” led by Theresa A. Yuschok, MD, after the show’s 2 p.m. Sunday, March 11th, performances.


Tartuffe; or The Imposter, or The Hypocrite or Tartuffe; ou, l’imposteur (1664 French comedy): (Encyclopædia Britannica) and (Wikipedia).

The Script: (Google Books).

Study Guide: (Utah Shakespeare Festival).

Molière (French dramatist and actor, nee Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, 1622-73): (Encyclopædia Britannica), (PlayMakers Rep bio), and (Wikipedia).

David Ball (Durham, NC adapter): (PlayMakers Rep bio) and (Facebook page).

Saheem Ali (New York City director): (official website), (PlayMakers Rep bio), (Internet Off-Broadway Database), (Internet Broadway Database), and (Facebook page).


Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)

By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).