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Ken Wolpert, artistic director for the year-old, Durham-based Irreverence Theater Company, will be directing the group's first major production this month at the Forest Theatre Festival. Starring Chapel Hill's Donald Shenton and Durham's Oliver Vest, Wolpert's take on the classic Molière comedy Tartuffe (pictured) promises to be a trenchant and timely commentary on religious hypocrisy. In the play, Orgon, a well-to-do Parisian householder, is deceived by the hypocritical cant of a beggar named Tartuffe, whom Orgon has made an honored guest in his home. In short order Tartuffe has essentially made himself master of the house, which Orgon ascribes to Tartuffe's unselfish interest in his family's welfare. "Religion seems to answer questions that are simply not answerable within the confines of human understanding," Wolpert says. "Tartuffe knows how to use the bully pulpit, the fear of damnation that religion engenders, to destroy other people, by portraying himself as someone who knows what God wants." Wolpert, who first read the play in French in high school and directed it in college 20 years ago, has adapted the script to trim the five-act, two-hour play into something more suitable for the Forest Theatre fest. "Nobody gets to do two hours at the Forest Theatre," Wolpert says. He says his one-hour adaptation has been staged to use the entire forest and will be "high energy." See it at the theater on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus this Aug. 8-11 at 6:30 p.m. Call 471-6170 for details.

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