Sunday, 12 February 2017

THE LIAR at Classic Stage Company

     I for one wish the Classic stage Company would stick to classics. This season opened with an unnecessary stage adaptation of DEAD POETS SOCIETY and will close with Sondheim's PACIFIC OVERTURES, a classic of sorts. However, so few New York theatres do revivals of plays written before World War II that we desperately need the CSC to stick to its title. THE LIAR, the CSC's current presentation, is David Ive's loose translation of Corneille's comedy, THE LIAR. Of the 17th century French dramatic masters, We usually associate Moliere with comedy and his peer Corneille with tragedy, but Corneille's comedy THE LIAR is every bit as delightful as any play by Moliere. As in Moliere's plays, there is a character with an extremely exaggerated character trait, wily servants, a doddery father and romantic matches and mismatches. Plays of the period were written in Alexandrines, six foot lines that do not set will with English rhythms. Translations usually put them into rhymed iambic pentameter.
     In this production, the language is the star of the show. David Ives has created a delightful feast of witty verse. It is sometimes anachronistic, sometimes raunchy, often surprising and always great fun. The actors seems to relish the chance to speak language like this. Christian Conn is perhaps more dashing than one would expect as Dorante, the liar. His is the most demanding role as his language moves in and out of quotes from Shakespeare and grand melodramatics. The rest of the cast is up to his standard. Veteran Michael Kahn has directed with flair, but never allows the physical action to upstage the verbal wit.
     Yes, current events make a play about a man addicted to telling lies particularly timely. Perhaps the play should be called THE SPEAKER OF ALTERNATIVE FACTS.
     Delightful. Please, CSC, more productions like this and last year's PEER GYNT.

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