In The Writer's World

Artists Rep_The Liar by David Ives_JohnSanNicolas, Chris Murray_PhotobyOwenCareyHe’s young, he’s handsome, he wears weird pants, and he’s constitutionally incapable of telling the truth, even when it would be easier.

Meet Dorante (Chris Murray) in Artists Repertory Theatre’s laugh-out-loud funny production of The Liar.  Committed to spinning yarns as he goes, Dorante justifies himself by saying, “My wits will weave what memory can’t supply.”

As the play opens, Dorante hires the chronically unemployed Cliton (John San Nicolas) as his valet. Lie number one is his promise to pay him. And it goes from there, part slapstick, part romantic comedy, part farce, plus a few cases of mistaken identity thrown in for good measure. The play is reminiscent of a Shakespeare comedy–if Shakespeare were on illegal drugs.

The result is hilarious mayhem in iambic pentameter. Did I mention the play is written, and translated, entirely in verse, with sumptuous dialog that echoes forsooths? Period-inspired costumes (Bobby Brewer Wallin) and wigs (Ashley Rose Hardy) push the envelope toward whimsy. And the set design (Susan Gratch), which includes a huge backdrop map of Paris and some glittery draperies, is simple and functional, with the requisite windows perfect for spying on the street below. This play is a treat to the ears as well as the eyes.

The adept and multi-talented cast also includes Geronte (Allen Nause), Dorante’s father, eagerly seeking a bride for his son; Alcippe (Gilberto Martin del Campo), Clarice’s (Amy Newman) spurned suitor; Lucrece (Chantal DeGroat), Clarice’s giggling girlfriend; Philiste (Vin Shambry) Alcippe’s sidekick; and Isabelle and Sabine (Val Landrum), twins and maids to Clarice and Lucrece.

The play itself is a translation and adaptation by playwright David Ives of a mid-17th century play by French dramatist Pierre Corneille. Ives was commissioned to translate the play for Shakespeare Theatre Company of Washington, and embraced the project from the standpoint of playwright rather than translator. Says Ives, “…you have to write the play Corneille would have written today…” with contemporary touches, attitudes, and even phrases that make the audience feel like insiders rather than observers, and add to the richness of the period piece.

Even though I don’t know Artists Repertory’s artistic director Damaso Rodriguez, I felt he truly was in his element with The Liar. It is the funniest play I’ve seen in years!

The Liar runs through June 21 at Artists Repertory Theatre, and is a Northwest premiere. Photo by Owen Carey.

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