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TARTUFFE, Stage Two Theatre. The press material for this show makes a big deal out of Stage Two executive director Timothy Mooney's new adaptation of Moliere's comedy, about a religious hypocrite and the gullible aristocrats who pamper him. But as far as I can tell, the only advantage Mooney's translation has over Richard Wilbur's justly praised, graceful, and witty version is that it comes free of those pesky royalty obligations. God knows there's nothing in Mooney's sometimes rough, sometimes witty sex- and flatulence-obsessed take on Moliere that's an improvement on Wilbur.

But even if there were, you wouldn't necessarily be able to tell in this awkward, unevenly acted production, which Mooney directed. True, some of the actors understand how to perform classical comedy and manage to remain in character while giving their poetic comic monologues humor and feeling--most notably Clara Abellard, who plays the tricky maid with such aplomb that I looked forward to her every entrance.

But most of Mooney's cast either don't know the first thing about speaking rhymed verse, spitting out their lines in a trance-inducing singsong, or get the poetry right but fumble their characters. The scenery-chewing Allan Monroe plays Tartuffe as if he were Snidly Whiplash, while Kathleen Hurley is so quiet as the heroine, Mariane, that the checkerboard pattern on the floor upstages her.

--Jack Helbig

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