By Evan McKenna
“The Liar”- Written by David Ives, adapted from the comedy by Pierre Corneille. Directed by Marta Rainer. Producing Artistic Director, Nora Hussey. Stage Management by Lindsay Garofalo. Set Design/Production Manager, David Towlun. Costume Design by Chelsea Kerl. Sound Design by George Cooke. Lighting Design by Bailey Costa. Vocal Coach, Paul Michael Valley. Photography by David Brooks Andrews. Fight Director, Ted Hewlett. Presented by Wellesley Repertory Theatre at the Diana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall, 106 Central Street, Wellesley through February 4th
Considering the volume of outrageously funny comedies written for stage and film today, it should be noted when a work from the 1600s has enough comedic value to remain as vibrant as any of them. Wellesley Repertory Theatre’s presentation of “The Liar”, the David Ives adaptation of the Pierre Corneille comedy (directed by Marta Rainer) which premiered last Friday, proves to be a must-see, thanks to the outstanding execution by the cast of this hilarious story.
The Liar follows the journey of a charismatic, wealthy young man named Dorante (Dan Prior) who creates ridiculous fabrications every chance he gets. But while the timeless comedy plot device of young-boy-gets-himself-into-sticky-situations-by-lying may have become commonplace over the centuries, both this story and Wellesley Rep’s treatment of it are far from typical.
In the opening of this tale (which is performed entirely in iambic pentameter), Dorante comes across Cliton (Sam Warton), and charms him into working as his manservant. Unlike Dorante, who cannot tell the truth, Cliton cannot tell a lie, which establishes an entertaining dynamic full of conflict from the start. But Dorante and Cliton’s journey has just begun, and their differences soon become the least of Dorante’s troubles.
When Dorante looks for love in Paris with Cliton by his side, he comes across the beautiful Clarice (Ariela Nazar-Rosen) and mistakes her for Lucrece (Angela Bilkic), Clarice’s friend and counterpart. The two young girls, with their pink and purple hair, are unaware of Dorante’s misunderstanding of them, but soon grow suspicious of his lies and intentions. Nazar-Rosen and Bilkic arguably evoke the loudest laughs of the performance with their constant expressions of woe, frustration, and jokes about the tragedy of loving men. In separate scenes with Dorante and Cliton, and then Clarice and Lucrece, we experience the joy of dramatic irony, as each side plots to deceive the other camp.
Much like the Shakespearean play, “Love’s Labour’s Lost“, the two boys find themselves tangled in confusion as the misunderstandings mount. In his pursuit of Lucrece, Dorante finds himself in situations with his father and other suitors, which leads to lying even more to coerce, convince, and save himself from trouble—while ironically setting himself up for more.
While the play is almost 400 years old, the iambic pentameter—which the cast executes flawlessly—uses language and dialect that is easily digestible for a contemporary, general audience.
While the antics by the capable leads are funny enough to carry the play, it’s the hilarious performances by the entire cast that make this production rock. The production features IRNE award-winner Danny Bolton in the role of Philiste, and other accomplished New England and New York actors such as John Kinsherf as Geronte, Charles Linshaw and Paul Michael Valley as Alcippe, each who, while supporting characters, bring an equal amount of talent and humor to the stage, giving the play a more holistic feel.
Note: At Friday’s night performance the role of Isabelle/Sabine, (the identical twins and love interest of truth teller Cliton), was performed impromptu by assistant stage management intern Maggie Lees, a Wellesley student. She replaced the actress and award winning writer and director, Caitlin Graham, who acted in the first scene as Isabelle, but faced a medical emergency in the middle of the play. While Lees had no choice but to read from the script during the performance, her quick and witty interpretation kept the show going, barely missing a beat. For more information and tickets go to: http://www.wellesleyrepertorytheatre.org/