BWW Reviews: STC's SCHOOL FOR LIES Forces Comedy with One Joke
If I wanted to watch people sniping at each other with no discernible plot or story then I'll watch reality TV. Unfortunately that's what the latest outing from Sound Theatre Company, "School For Lies", felt like. David Ives' adaptation of Moliere's "The Misanthrope" felt like such a contrived and one-note exercise in insults that I may have well have been watching the Real Housewives in verse. True the cast commits to the style but the style they've adopted is so forced and flat that I felt beaten over the head with the humor to the point that I didn't care about any of the characters.
I'll try and explain the plot although I found it difficult to find one, at least one that made sense. Let's see, Philinte (Matthew Gilbert) has brought his new friend Frank (Frank Lawler) to the home of Celimene (Page Byers). Philinte finds Frank's ... er ... frankness hilarious and thinks Celimene will too (I think). When he meets her he's sullen and hurling one caustic remark on society after the other. Celimene is being sued for some cruel remarks she has made, as is everyone it seems, and she thinks Frank can help her out of her legal woes as Philinte has told her that Frank is the King's brother (for some reason). So Celimene begins to attempt to woo him. Meanwhile Philinte had told Frank that Celimene is in love with him (again, for some unknown reason). Suddenly Frank comes back in the next scene completely changed and in love with Celimene (for absolutely no reason I could discern). Oh, and there's also three foppish other suitors (Dylan Smith, Paul Barrois and Corey Spruill) who are also after the hand of Celimene (also without a reason), a friend of Celimene's, Eliante (Marianna de Fazio), who Philinte is in love with but who falls for Frank (say it with me now, for no reason), Celimene's other friend Arsinoe (Alysha Curry) who seems to only want to stir up trouble and Celimene's butler (Henry James Walker) who keeps dropping the canapés.
If it sounds like I just couldn't follow what little story there was, you'd be right. All the women seem to be after Frank although there was no arc or incentive that led to that and everyone else only felt the need to prance around on stage and hurl rhyming insults at each other. I usually credit Ives with much better writing but this only manages to show off people being vicious with over the top characterizations. If it was a statement, I missed it as all I could hear were people being catty.
The cast, as directed by Teresa Thuman, seems to have been instructed to keep all their characters as flat and one note as possible giving none of them any kind of likability and making the rhyming verse just meld into one long drone. Plus all deliveries of every barb, dance (yes there are some dance numbers, again, for no reason) or pratfall are so telegraphed in advance that they lost all humor. Furthermore the verse felt like bad Shakespeare to me. People spouting the pretty rhyming words but not conveying the story so the meaning is lost.
All in all it's a loud, colorful, in your face, insult-fest without a cohesive plot. And while that may work for some people who enjoy the likes of Snookie and Honey Boo Boo, I find it completely boring. Oh I love me some crude humor and acerbic wit but it needs something to back it up or it's just crass for the sake of being crass. For my three letter rating I'm going to take into account the laughter from the crowd who were obviously enjoying it much more than me and bump this up to a NAH although if it were based on my experience alone I could only give it a WTF. Just really not for me.
"School For Lies" from Sound Theatre Company performs at the Seattle Center Armory Theater through August 24th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.soundtheatrecompany.org.