Theater Artists Olympia is known for shows that focus on darkness, gore and even, in some cases, cannibalism.
But Friday (June 12), the theater company turns expectations upside down with a fluffy, colorful production of the French farce “Tartuffe.”
“Our theme for the whole show is cotton candy,” director Maggie Ferguson-Wagstaffe said. “Everything is colorful and light and fast and fun to reflect the show itself.”
Molière’s tale of a con artist masquerading as a man of God dates back to 1664, but it has a bit of the feeling of any madcap comedy. And in the hands of Theater Artists Olympia, it’s sexy, too.
The company’s description of the show promises sex on tables and pants around ankles. “Our costume design is Marie Antoinette meets Frederick’s of Hollywood,” Ferguson-Wagstaffe said.
It was time for a change from the theater’s typical dark fare, said Vanessa Postil, who is on the board and plays Mariane in “Tartuffe.”
“We wanted something fun and light,” she said. “We wanted something different.”
Ferguson-Wagstaffe, who hadn’t directed since her days at the University of Washington, wanted to direct for the company and proposed “Tartuffe” for the summer slot. (Her name might not be recognizable to theatergoers, but her face certainly will be. Formerly Maggie Lofquist, she’s acted in many plays at Harlequin Productions, most recently “Laughter on the 23rd Floor.”)
“Tartuffe” fits Theater Artists Olympia’s mission to do theater that’s underrepresented and provocative, Postil said. While it’s well known, the show is not frequently done (although the Seattle Shakespeare Company produced it this spring), and because it pokes fun at the pious, it was provocative enough in its day to be banned.
“There’s material that falls into those categories that’s not dark, and it’s fun to explore that,” Postil said.
She’s personally enjoying the change, she said. It’s quite a switch from playing a head with no body in “The Head That Wouldn’t Die” to playing an ingénue in love in “Tartuffe.”
“I definitely wanted to do something that was different,” she said. “Jan was so dark and menacing. Mariane is very bright and naive, and all is well in fairy princess land.
“My character is pink,” she said. “We all have colors. We have wigs and different colors of hair.”
The cast also includes Christian Carvajal, Heather Christopher, Michael Christopher, Xander Layden, Rick Pearlstein and Amanda Stevens.
The vibrantly colored characters will frolic on an equally bright set, painted in ocean blue and yellow.
“It’s a feel-good, happy comedy of love and really bright saturated color,” Postil said. “And it rhymes. That also adds to the fun of it.”