Molière’s Masterpiece Tartuffe to be Performed with a New Ending

A new ending to Molière’s seventeenth century masterpiece, Tartuffe, will be presented at Sarah Lawrence College March 4 to 6 in the Suzanne Werner Wright Theatre. OBIE award-winning playwright and member of the College’s theatre faculty, Amlin Gray, has made the new ending part of his recent translation of the play, which, like Molière’s original, is written in rhyming verse. “It’s highly speculative, very presumptuous, and great fun,” says Gray.

The play will be performed by Sarah Lawrence students, and is directed by theatre program director John Dillon. Admission is free and open to the public but tickets are limited. Please call (914) 395 2412 for reservations. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on March 4 and 6 and at 8:30 p.m. on March 5.

Historians have long pondered the ending of the classic comedy, which was censored for several years by King Louis XIV, after its controversial premiere in 1664. Scholars have long wondered how Molière’s earlier version differed from the published play that has survived for more than three centuries. No copies of the three-act 1664 version, performed in Versailles, have ever surfaced.

Some historians believe Molière rewrote the ending to please the King, who had bowed to criticism from powerful clerics in Paris and the city’s upper crust. The play was presented once in 1667, ordered shut down, and then presented again in 1669. It is the 1669 version, which was expanded to five acts, that has stood the test of time.

“Amlin has reconstructed what he thinks might have been in the original text,” says Dillon. “This production both honors the masterpiece and attempts to create something that no American audience has ever seen.”

“I’ve adored the play whenever I’d read it, but when it goes into the fifth act, it’s not about anything that the play is about,” Gray says. “It’s straight melodrama and it’s brilliantly effective. But I just don’t think that ending is part of Molière’s original intent.”

Gray, who has translated plays from Greek, Spanish, and German, says this is the first play he has translated from French. He won an OBIE in 1981 for his play, How I Got That Story, which was set in Viet Nam.