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Po' PoMo Moliere

The Alley concocts a Blazing Shambles of its slapstick commedia dell'Tartuffe

Along the way, the company wastes an opportunity to restore vitality to a locally neglected classic, as they did in their brilliant rendition of A Flea in Her Ear a couple of seasons ago. Most distressing is the frank misuse of a whole group of actors at a virtually unmodulated frenetic pitch of ham-handed slapstick, heavily burdened by the boorish influence of such subtle theatrical sources as Saturday Night Live. As the play opens, a virtually unrecognizable Karen MacDonald enters, screaming, as Madame Pernelle, and nearly every scene is howled at the same dismal decibel level until she returns, screaming, at the close. In between, the principals and Dustin Smith (Damis), Shelley Williams (Mariane), John Feltch (Valere), Kimberly King (Dorine), Michael Ballard (Monsieur Loyal) and Alex Allen Morris (The Assistant Undersecretary) chew the scenery and assail the air with a palpable determination to convince the audience we're having a good time.

Now and then, thanks primarily to a nearly inaudible but still-valiant playwright almost but not quite obscured by all this noisy imposture -- we do.

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