BWW Review: THE LIAR at DreamWrights Center For Community Arts
The Liar by David Ives was adapted from Le Menteur by Pierre Corneille. The original play by Corneille was first performed in 1644. The adaptation by Ives premiered in 2010 at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington D.C. The Liar has delighted audiences across the country ever since. It is written in pentameter, a type of poetry employed by authors such as Chaucer and Shakespeare. The storyline is quite ridiculous-one character who cannot lie, one who cannot tell the truth, and several cases of mistaken identity-but with the right cast and delivery, it is a delightful romp that is sure to leave the audience chuckling. The Liar opened on February 1st at DreamWrights Center for Community Arts.
The studio space at DreamWrights is the perfect setting for The Liar. The set is simple yet includes beautiful symbolic elements like the subtle outline of a heart on the cobblestone courtyard. From the very beginning of the show the audience can feel the energy from the cast. This show is best performed with a cast that understands how to speak pentameter as well as how to be over the top without feeling over the top, and the cast at DreamWrights gets this just right.
Andrew Smith starts the show out with a high-energy, fun introduction that helps the audience get into the feel of the show, attuning their ears to the rhyming speech, and interacting with members of the audience. Throughout the show Smith's expressions, physicality, and line delivery are spot-on for his role of Cliton the servant. This is a truly funny role, and Smith's comedic timing can't be beat. The back and forth between Smith and Justin Nicholas (portraying Dorante) in their very first scene sets the tone for the entire show, which is filled with witty repartee that requires a ping-pong-like exchange of lines. Indeed, the way in which Andrew Smith and Justin Nicholas relate to one another on stage is stellar. One of the funniest scenes in the show is the one in which Dorante gives Cliton a lesson in how to lie. The blocking and the way the actors execute it is just fun to watch.
Justin Nicholas as Dorante particularly shines in his monologues where his character spins tales to convince others of things that never happened. He is a terrific storyteller, using his voice, body language, and eye contact to get the characters on stage and the audience on his side, believing every word he says. Even when you know his character is lying, he makes it so convincing that you start to wonder if it's really a lie. Dorante's relationships with the various characters in the show are quite complicated, made even more complicated by his propensity for telling fibs. Justin Nicholas does a great job at highlighting these complications. One of his best scenes in my opinion is one in which he barely even talks. The scene is with Mark Hargreaves as Geronte, Dorante's father, who has just realized the extent of his son's duplicity. Nicholas alters his expression and posture just enough to show the audience that his character really does love his father and does not want him to be upset with him. It is a beautifully acted scene for both actors.
Geronte is another highly comical role, but also one of the roles that has the widest range in terms of emotion. Mark Hargreaves handles this range of emotion wonderfully. For most of the show the character is jovial and energetic, almost overwhelming the other characters with his displays of affection and exuberance. In the hands of a less skilled actor, Geronte's exuberance can be annoying. In Hargreaves's hands Geronte is delightful and somehow seems sincere and authentic.
Alcippe and Philiste are portrayed by Kevin Alvarnaz and Quinton Laughman. These two actors play up the difference in personality in their characters quite well, with Laughman's Philiste coming across as mild-mannered, calm, and level-headed-a contrast to Alvarnaz's Alcippe, who is hot-headed and volatile. Alvarnaz is brilliant in his fight scene with Nicholas's Dorante.
Rounding out this ensemble cast are Kayla Nicholas as Clarice, Makaela Cooper as Lucrece, and Corinthia Kessler as Isabelle/Sabine. Kayla Nicholas is charming in her role as Clarice. She has the ability to portray a "sweet young thing" while not shying away from highlighting the craftiness and strength Clarice displays in some of the later scenes. One of her best scenes comes when she tries to bring to light Dorante's lies and lets her frustrations and indignation be felt.
Of course the character of Clarice would not be as interesting a role without her best friend Lucrece. The play does a wonderful job of developing their relationship and demonstrating how different the two friends are from one another. While perhaps a little young for the role, Makaela Cooper has the acting ability to pull of the role of Lucrece quite well. The scenes where the two women commiserate with one another about the men or lack of men in their lives is so well done that it is almost impossible not to have flashbacks to the days of adolescent sleepovers and gossiping about boys.
One of the more difficult roles in the show is taken on by Corinthia Kessler. Isabelle and Sabine must be portrayed as two totally different characters in terms of personality, and Kessler handles switching back and forth between the two roles with seeming ease. Every entrance and exit is completely in character, with her expression, movements, and tone of voice changing completely depending on which character she is in the scene.
All of the actors did a marvelous job at remaining in character even when they were mostly observing a scene and even as they crossed behind the audience to make some of their entrances. If there was a chance that an audience member could see them, they were in character. Special kudos to the costume designers Rebecca Eastman and Cali Miles. The costumes were not only particular to the time period, but also to the characters themselves-the costumes matched the character's personality in style and color. Director Laurie Riffe, the cast and crew put together a well thought out production that is engaging and entertaining.
The Liar is a tremendously fun and funny show, and a great way to kick off the 2019 season at DreamWrights. Chase away the winter blues and get your tickets today at www.dreamwrights.org