Molière is sometimes referred to as the Shakespeare of France, but the 17th-century playwright has enough of an English-language following to inspire Molière in the Park, an outdoor theater event in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. And its latest production, Tartuffe or The Hypocrite, about a lascivious grifter posing as a spiritual advisor, is as wickedly relevant now as it was in the days of Louis XIV.

As with Shakespeare in the Park, tickets to “Molière in the Park” are free but the show is staged on a humble square platform, with two or three wooden bench rows on each side—a flashback to Joseph Papp’s summer productions in Central Park the 1950s, before the amphitheater was built. It is a bootstrap Tartuffe, with lively, deft actors, but no sets or props or elaborate costumes, and it is utterly charming.

This isn’t your mother’s Tartuffe. Slater’s translation is based on an original three-act 1664 version of the play that was banned by the Church for impiety and re-introduced by Molière in 1669 with five acts—but still plenty of irreverence. The 1664 text was recently reconstituted by French historians and was performed at the Comédie Française in 2022. This is the American premiere of the 1664 text. Slater’s translation rhymes, but with dashes of modern colloquialisms.

Little known, and set in a humble corner of Brooklyn, Molière in the Park is easy to miss. But don’t.

Tartuffe will be staged in Prospect Park through May 27

Alessandra Stanley is a Co-Editor of AIR MAIL