Tuesday, March 6, 2018

the lessons of Tartuffe

While I was on the SCU campus for their student symphony concert on Saturday, I saw a poster for a concurrent student production of Tartuffe. This caught my attention as it'd been over 30 years since I'd seen that play and I was happy to consider it again, but also because Tartuffe had come across my radar that morning in a different context: I'd found that there will be a production of it on in London while I'll be there briefly in a couple months. But it didn't fit my schedule.

So I was all the more moved to show up for the matinee next day. The cast was all competent, though a little over-declamatory and a little under-inspired. The main problem was having students of all the same age play three generations of characters left it a bit unclear who was supposed to be which and how old they were.

In Act 2, after Orgon has been disillusioned about Tartuffe's sham piety, he declares furiously that he'll never trust a religious man again. And his brother-in-law, a character who seems to exist purely to be everyone else's moral conscience, advises him that skepticism can be just as unwise as gullibility.

And yes, I was feeling the force of that lesson. That morning I'd twice gotten recorded-message phone calls that started out by saying they were from some fraud department. Figuring they'd be from the sort of scammers who want you to install malware on your computer, I hung up both times.

Only as I hung up the second time did I suddenly realize it might be legitimate, regarding the online overseas credit card transaction I'd made that morning for such performances I could fit into my schedule in London. I know well enough from past experience that credit issuers hyperventilate at unwarned foreign transactions, even online. At the box office for Tartuffe I asked them to run that card, and sure enough it was blocked.

So if I was going to fix this promptly, and I thought I should, it was going to have to be done by cell phone over the next half hour before the show started. This was accomplished, but I have to say: I'm told there exist people who've actually given up their landlines so that they can do all their phone business by mobile. I can't imagine possibly doing that. Anything longer than quick appointment-setting checkins on a cell phone is totally nightmarish. But you won't learn that from Tartuffe.

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