Buffalo, New York - Irish Classical Theater
The Liar by David Ives
By the time you swear you're his, Shivering and sighing. And he vows his passion is, Infinite, undying.|
Lady make note of this One of you is lying. - Dorothy Parker
Historically, homo sapiens has heavily invested in untruth. Mythology, religion, politics...pick a Jeopardy category.
Bernie Madoff, master of the
Ponzi scheme, admitted that his investment firm was "just one big lie," having conned $50 billion from investors who trusted him with their savings.
My favourite liar is
Bill Clinton who smoked them but did not inhale them and "did not have sexual relations with that woman," intern Monica Lewinsky. As Dorothy Parker noted above, sex is often the grounds for untruth. That's what satirist Pierre Corneille believed in 1643 France. Corneille, Racine and Moliere were careful in whom they skewered just as Edward Snowden has learned recently when speaking truth to power and in the process annoying the CIA and other clandestine operations. It seems that some people simply don't appreciate the truth as
Jack Nicholson (Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, USMC) emphatically suggested to Tom Cruise (Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, USN, JAG Corps) in the movie, A Few Good Men - "You can't handle the truth!"
French satirists employed their wit to safely (for them) reflect upon this human condition. And Chicagoan
David Ives, a contemporary American playwright, has cleverly adapted Corneille's work, modernized it, and turned it into comic verse with rhyming couplets (often involving one cast member finishing the other's speech). The result is the Irish Classical Theatre's wonderful production of The Liar, expertly directed by Fortunato Pezzimenti, employing a simple set of green blocks and pyramids by David Dwyer.
With Brian Cavanagh's minimalist yet captivating lighting design focused on a centre stage motif, Adriano Gatto, the compulsive liar, Dorante, performs an opening hyperbolic leap into the spotlight to start the action and then stays there and remarkably carries the play with an outstanding comedic performance, augmented by his hilarious Sancho Panza, Kevin Craig who, in contrast, is condemned to tell the truth as the baffled and frustrated Cliton. Add amorous damsels to the mix, friends Diane Curley as the bemused Clarice and, Andrea Gollhardt as the busty Lucrece, servant Bethany Sporacio, terrific at playing bipolar twins, Isabelle and Sabine; throw in Joe Liolos as the bungling suitor Alcippe and Tom Zindle as Geronte, Dorante's meddling father; add the Shakespearian ploy of confused identities, a Cyrano de Bergerac scene that causes even more confusion, and we have a fun-filled evening of delicious farce, with Gatto encouraging us to go home and "lie" together after the play, the audience responding with warm applause.
In farce, one does not identify with or develop attachment to the foolish characters. The Liar is about words and how they are employed to disguise truth. Ives like
Corneille wants us to examine the bigger picture. His rhyming dialogue evokes a child's bedtime story by
Dr. Seuss, and the cast is up to the rapid-fire task of keeping the addictive music moving, the silly script twisting and turning and forcing Gatto to invent more and more implausible deceits, maintaining a straight face even as he teaches his sidekick Craig, the tools of the trade. Craig comically acts as narrator, vainly trying to explain iambic pentameter at the start, advising the audience to go get a drink during intermission, and providing plot summaries along the way.
For scene changes
Pezzimenti smartly directs the cast to simply shift similar set pieces (giant cones and boxes) such that despite the constant lateral movements, in homage to the vertically challenged
Sisyphus, everything remains the same, a clever physical and psychological twist.
The Liar is
Irish Classical Theatre's first offering of the 2014-5 season to be followed with Death of a Salesman, The Lion in Winter, After Miss Julie, The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Lord Arthur Savile's Crime. This is an impressive company, and there is not a bad seat in the house.