First the play! The Liar is an adaptation from a piece by Le Menteur by Pierre Corneille. No, I don’t know either of them either. But the play presented here was written by David Ives and is the funniest and funnest play that I can ever remember seeing. And although Ives makes a few digs at poor Will Shakespeare here, he has imagined, through wordplay, puns, rhyming couplets, pentameter, and long drawn out comic ideas, the ideal contemporary Shakespeare comedy. YES! But no, you don’t have to know a speck of Shakespeare nor even how to spell Hamlet to get along here. Just listen closely and engage…and believe me, with Mr. Ives, engage you will. All it takes is an interest in language, wordplay, and the humor of human foibles and artifice to make you laugh at nearly every line! YES!
But yes, there will be tons of action, misplaced loyalties, mistaken identities, love, and well love, and a grand denouement that even Shakespeare would covet.
Now on to the director! Keira Fromm is the director! YES! Not to rest on his laurels with a wicked funny text, the action Ives describes includes the need for some very very active slapstick. How Fromm was able to block this out physically and keep all of the actors in motion while maintaining the exquisite timing of the verse and text is simply amazing. YES! There are pratfalls, slaps to the face, duels, and wild entrances and exits…truly worthy of the best silent movie comedies. I am certain that medium influenced some of the activity here. YES!
But without direct knowledge of who did what, I am also certain that we should thank Assistant Director Lulu Guzman and Director of Movement Jeb Burris for the effective and hilarious scurry and bustle of all of the actors all about the stage.
And finally the cast and story. I don’t understand how the entire cast could maintain the level of energy and activity called for in this play. That alone is quite amazing to me. YES! Now, Dorante comes to Paris to seek excitement and a love match. He is a liar…well…not just a liar but one who can not tell the truth and regales every questioner with tales beyond the ken of anyone’s imagination. Dorante is played by Daniel Jose Molina with an outstanding fearlessness that sells the lies and bravado required by the character. He hires one Cliton as his valet. And Cliton seems to be the only one who recognizes all of Dorante’s tales for what they are. Cliton is physically played by Josh Krause and even when he is not speaking, his facial gestures and body language is not to be missed. For me, Krause really steals more than a few scenes with his physical comedy bits. Cliton can tell no lies…and is at times jealous of Dorante’s lack of truthfulness…to the point of…oh, never mind…see the play!
And Dorante is accompanied to Paris by his father, Geronte, who intends to arrange a marriage to the daughter of an old friend. Geronte is played by La Shawn Banks in an over the top flamboyance that makes a bit of fun of old period pieces and comedies. And Dorante runs into his old friend Alcippe, here played by Casey Hoekstra, who at once embraces his friend and then becomes his archenemy around love and lies!!!
And the ladies! They are at times coquettish, flirtatious, scheming, and completely vicious in their own humor! Phoebe Gonzalez is Alcippe’s betrothed, Clarice, who just happens to be the woman that Geronte is hoping to wed to Dorante. Her best friend and companion, Lucrece is played by Samantha Newcomb, who is totally complicit in the confusion and merriment sown around misidentities and misinformation flying around the Place Royale. And then there is Kelsey Brennan, who is double cast as Sabine and Isabelle…and Brennan’s skill in this double role results in her becoming an eagerly anticipated focal character mid-way through the play. There is more here than meets the eye and you will be sorely amazed when we reach the final act. Thank you Kelsey!
Now if you have gotten this far, and have glanced at all of the pictures, you realize costume designer Holly Payne totally understands the values that over the top costumes can bring to farce and comedy. These characters are exquisitely attired for their persons, their place in this society, and for making fun of themselves and social mores, and just plain fun! Thank you!
And one extra kudo to Keira Fromm: what a marvelous cast you have put together here…they seem so absolutely suited to the characters that they play!
One side note and maybe I am mistaken: although this is set in Paris and there is a great bit of oration and speechifying here…I think only one character actually speaks with a French accent…if somebody can confirm this, I’d appreciate it!
So when you go, make sure you stretch out the muscles you use to laugh out loud…and put away your tendency to grown at puns…they are outrageously funny in The Liar.
Extra credit reading: The 2023 Season Playbill
There aren’t a lot of opportunities left to see The Liar this season (I visited APT a bit later than other years), but here is the link to more info and to purchase tickets.
all photos are courtesy of American Players Theatre