By Marlene S. Gaylinn
Artistic Director of Westport Country Playhouse (WCP), Mark Lamos, states in his program notes that “Lying is actually a big part of how we communicate, and it’s certainly a large part—if not the essential aspect—of all art.”To illustrate his point, the Playhouse is opening its 85th season, with a hilarious comedy by David Ives, called “The Liar.” The production is a composite of 16th and 17th century plays based upon this deceptive art of human expression. Classical elements, such as rhyming couplets, are rendered in the style of Shakespeare, Rostand, Racine, Moliere and in particular, Pierre Corneille’s “Le Menteur”and are cleverly incorporated against a background of French hip-hop music, up-dated period ball gowns, and minimal, picture-book scenery. In short, the play illustrates that the art of lying has not changed since humans developed speech and the writing of classical plays – particularly the ones that are still enjoyed today.
It is natural for normal children to learn to lie as soon as they begin to talk. It’s a technique used by many politicians and lawyers and as current events still show, you might get away with lying if you have mastered how to twist things around and cover-up your mistakes eloquently. Aaron Krohn’s quick-thinking “Dorante,” is one of those eternal, wily characters whose lies will keep you sitting forward in your seat.
“The Liar,” does not have any important lessons to teach. However, I can truthfully say that if you can keep up with the quick pace of Penny Metropulos’ direction and the very clever dialogue, you will be bound to laugh at the mix-up of characters and the convoluted circumstances, which eventually lead to suitable mates.
The entire cast is superb. Kate Mccluggage plays the adorable, sought after “Clarice” and Monique Barbee is her wise friend, “Lucrece.”If the girls’ names sound similar it is only the beginning. Adding to the confusion is the fact that Clarice has twin maids with opposite personalities, and Rebekah Brockman plays both characters, “Isabelle” and “Sabine,” with admirable finesse.The frequent mix-up in the maids’ individual appearances leads to even more confusion. Rusty Ross is Dorante’s valet “Clinton,” Brian Reddy is Dorante’s believably befuddled father, Geronte. Philippe Bogen is “Alcippe,” Dorante’s rival for Clarice. and Jay Russell plays “Philiste,” his advisor.
When Clinton begs his Master Dorante for “lessons in lying,” Aaron Krohn gives a funny speech that is reminiscent of Cyrano de Bergerac’s excuse for his long nose. There are many familiar puns to tune into and this is only one example of this enjoyable play.
Plays through May 23 Tickets: 203-227-4177
This review appears in “On CT&NY Theatre” May/2015