Reviewed by Tony Annicone
University of Rhode Island’s winter show is “The School for Lies” by David Ives which is a comic adaptation of “The Misanthrope” by Moliere. This show is set in the 1660’s and tells the comic tale of Frank, who shares with Moliere’s Alceste, a venomous hatred of the hypocrisy that surrounds him. Like his predecessor, Frank gets into trouble by insulting the work of a dreadful poet, Oronte and falls in love with Celimene, a witty widow. In this madcap version, the brightest, wittiest salon in Paris is that of Celimene, a beautiful young widow so known for her satiric tongue that she is being sued for it.
Surrounded by shallow suitors, she has managed to evade love since her beloved husband died that is until today, when Frank shows up. Frank turns her world upside down, taking on her suitors and matching her barb for barb. Will their battle of wits in this hilarious tug of war blossom into true romance? Rambunctious, sexy and snide, this off color romantic spoof is filled with anonymous love letters, false proposals, hidden identities and colorful characters. Borrowing from Shakespeare, reality TV and everything between, “The School for Lies” is an inspired entertainment as well as a pointed study in self delusion. This wild farce with a furious tempo and stunning verbal display, all in contemporary couplets, will keep you laughing all the way home. Director Alan Hawkridge infuses his cast with madcap shtick and antics and the gorgeous period costumes by David Howard are the perfect finishing touches to this over the top farce.
Alan always does a splendid job directing various shows at URI and this is one more feather in his cap. As one of the characters in the show says the school of lies is society. I don’t want to give too much away to spoil it for the audience. There are many twists and turns in the show. The outspoken Frank is wonderfully played by Raymond Fournier. Frank is a pompous, know it all that lords it over the other citizens of Paris with his officious behavior. Raymond plays this role tongue in cheek and takes the audience on a merry ride with his huge amount of dialogue. Catia plays the seductress Celimene beautifully. She believes Frank’s connections with the royal family will help her escape from the slander charges. Her interactions with the other characters are topnotch and she does an insulting rap to Frank at the start of the show.
Frank’s friend Philinte tells a fib to Celimene about Frank because he told a lie about him. Kyle Coutre is splendid as this over the top character. He delivers his many comic lines winning many laughs. Kyle has a surprise role near the end of the show that has to be seen to be believed.. He has a crush on Eliante, the cousin of Celimene. Eliante has her eye on Frank for his supposedly righteous behavior. Will Philinte win the heart of Eliante or not. Eliante is played by the gorgeous Katherine Templeton. She makes Eliante into an innocent creature that gets caught up in sexual escapades and has a funny scene trying to seduce Frank near the end of the first act. The three suitors are marvelously played by Lauren Wade as Oronte, the terrible poet, who has a purple wart on his nose and sues Frank for libel, John Thomas Cunha as Clitander, the constantly grinning and overbearing suitor who constantly gets called Clitoris and J. Edward Clarke as Acaste, the dumbest one of the bunch who has a lisp. Their pursuit of Celimene is hilarious. Her best friend Arsinoe who is a spiteful prudish bitch is played by Daria-Lyric Montaquila who tries to blackmail Celimene with stolen letters. The running canape joke throughout the show is hilarious as they are continually knocked over and around the stage. Erik Schlicht plays the servant, Dubois who gets abused by the others and Magenta Kolakowski is the maid who continually cleans up the mess. So for a fabulous entertaining farce, be sure to catch “The School for Lies” at URI before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.
THE SCHOOL FOR LIES (23 February to 5 March)
URI Theatre, J Studio, Fine Arts Center, Upper College Road, Kingston, RI
1(401)874-5843 or www.uri.edu/theatre