A CurtainUp Review
"Turn off your brain," advises Cliton, the seemingly simple servant to Dorante, in the prologue to The Liar, now playing to full houses at The Shakespeare Theatre. Good advice but David Ives's translation and adaptation of Pierre Corneille's comedy, first produced in 1643, is such fun you won't want to miss a word of it. Especially if you enjoy word play, sword play, foreplay, irony and physical humor. Corneille and Ives have concocted a farce that maintains the charm and look of French costume drama in English language that is contemporary, very accessible and in pentameter!
Liars aren't born. They're fabricated. —Dorante to his servant, Cliton.
Director Michael Kahn has said for years that what many classics need and deserve is updating. I am not so sure that Corneille's Le Menteur/The Liar merits that rank but David Ives's "translaptation, i.e. a translation with a heavy dose of adaptation," as he says, definitely does. It's a hoot and should no doubt have a long life after this world premiere closes at the Shakespeare Theatre at the end of May.
Doronte, "a lying genius but a moral zero, the master of the airtight alibi, a creature of his inner multiplex" is a dashing, flirtatious man on the make incapable of telling the truth. His servant Cliton on the other hand speaks only the truth. It is a pleasure to watch the two weave their path through Parisian society.
Christian Conn as Dorante exhibits a lithe physical presence, a commanding voice, and a sly but suave quality while Adam Green as the doofus Cliton has pitch perfect comic timing. His cockeyed hat helps as do all of Murell Horton's costumes. He has clothed the actors in luscious clouds of satin and lace and feathers. Special kudos for the adaptable dress worn by Colleen Delany who plays the vivacious Isabelle and the dour Sabine, servants to respectively Lucrece and Clarice. Her quick changes become a running gag, especially when she enters saying she thought she wouldn't make it in time.
The cast works very well as an ensemble thanks to Michael Kahn whose direction keeps the words and actions tumbling at a good pace. All production elements, Alexander Dodge's set, Jeff Croiter's lighting and Adam Wernick's musical compositions hit the right note. Bravo!
Adapted by David Ives from the comedy by Pierre Corneille
Directed by Michael Kahn
Cast: Christian Conn (Dorante), David Sabin (Geronte, Dorante's father), Adam Green (Cliton, Dorante's servant), Erin Partin (Clarice), Miriam Silverman (Lucrece), Tony Roach (Alcippe), Aubrey Deeker (Philiste), Colleen Delany (Isabelle and Sabine).
Set Designer: Alexander Dodge
Lighting Designer: Jeff Croiter
Costume Designer: Murell Horton
Running time: two hours
The Shakespeare Theatre, at the Lansburgh, 450 7th Street, NW. 202-547-3230; ShakespeareTheatre.org.
Running Time: approximately 2 hours with one intermission
From 4/6/2010; closing 5/30/2010
Review by Susan Davidson based on May 15, 2010 matinee performance.
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