The Liar

January 13, 2018

in Plays

Play (2013)
by David Ives
Adapted from the comedy (1644) by Pierre Corneille

Directed by Marta Rainer

Wellesley Repertory Theatre
Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre
Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA
January 11 – February 4, 2018

Set Design: David Towlun; Costume Design: Chelsea Kerl; Fight Director: Ted Hewlett

With Angela Bilkic (Lucrece),Ariela Nazar-Rosen (Clarice), Paul Michael Valley (Alcippe), Dan Prior (Dorante), Danny Bolton (Philiste), Marta Rainer(Isabelle, Sabine), John Kinsherf (Gernote), Sam Warton (Cliton)

Angela Bilkic as Lucrece, Ariela Nazar Rosen as Clarice in 'The Liar'

Angela Bilkic as Lucrece
Ariela Nazar Rosen as Clarice
in “The Liar”
Photo: Courtesy of Wellesley Repertory Theatre

A wonderfully acted and beautifully written farce by contemporary playwright David Ives, based on a comedy by seventeenth century French playwright Pierre Corneille.

Dorante (Dan Prior) is an inveterate liar, and uses his talents in that regard to try to seduce Clarice (Ariela Nazar-Rosen), though he mistakes her for Lucrece (Angela Bilkic). Clarice is engaged to Alcippe (Paul Michael Valley) who is none too pleased with this. Meanwhile, Dorante’s father, Geronte (John Kinsherf), gets pulled into the action as a sponsor of a relationship that Dorante invents completely. It’s a royal mess all around as Dorante and his newly hired man-in-waiting, Cliton (Sam Warton), surf the various waves created by Dorante’s deceptions and Clarice’s and Lucrece’s responses. Aided by the maid Isabelle (Marta Rainer), who engages with Cliton as well as advising the women, the intrigues become thick and furious.

The amazing thing about this play is the sheer wit with which the couplets, all in iambic pentameter, are written. One line after another is completely amusing, filled to the brim with unexpected and very funny word sequences. If the lyrics were in a musical, they would be one a par with those in Miranda’s Hamilton or Sondheim’s A Little Night Music – clever, tight and endlessly entertaining.

To pull this off pretty much without a hitch for the almost two and a half hours of this play is no mean feat and the actors achieve this consistently well. All of them are excellent and declaim their not insignificant parts with full command of their lines while routinely evoking considerable humor with them.

A particular indication of the quality of the production was reflected, in the performance I saw, in which the role of Isabelle/Sabine, due to illness of the actor who plays the role, had to be played by director Marta Rainer with script in hand. She did a marvelous job and the production did not suffer at all from that unexpected compromise. At one point the director came on stage inadvertently without the script in hand and made an improvisational line about needing to go back for it, which worked beautifully well.

In the title role, as Dorante, Dan Prior gives a sleek and charming performance, somehow making his less than noble character sympathetic enough to carry him through to the benevolent eventualties.

As Clarice, Ariela Nazar-Rosen creates a kind of Valley Girl accent that works very well under the circumstances. It’s a very funny twist on a baroque French role and she pulls it off with a lot of humor.

Angela Bilkic, who did a fine job in Wellesley’s Three Sisters a few years ago, returns as Lucrece, the silent one of the two partners – at least up to a point; she and Clarice, dolled up in their psychedelic blue and pink wigs, add a whole new dimension to the idea of gentrified French society women. Bilkic’s Lucrece has composure, grace, and when the time comes, the necessary articulate ferocity.

Paul Michael Valley was officially the understudy for Alcippe, but he has assumed the role flawlessly and, totally in command of his lines, gives the part a blustery robustness it deserves.

Staging is expertly done, with a lot of cleverly added gestural choreography, and excellent fight design. All kinds of inventive movements give the production a continually kinetic and lively feel.

To make a production written in rhymed couplets interesting and stimulating for two and a half hours is a real trick of writing and production, and both are in fine form here.

David Towlun’s set is an inventive three dimensional fleur-de-lys and it gives the flavor, in an abstract space, of the place and time. A beautiful red curtain spreads across the stage, giving a Comedie Francaise flavor to the whole thing. Intimate and engaging, the show keeps one laughing consistently all the way through.

– BADMan

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