Last night, I saw Classic Stage Company's production of The Liar, David Ives's adaptation of Corneille's 17th-century French comedy.
Carson Elrod, a veteran of Ives's work having appeared in Lives of the Saints and other comedies, begins the show with a curtain speech in rhymed iambic pentameter, warning the audience that the whole play will be... in rhymed iambic pentameter. That's not quite true, as at one point, Ives switches to prose, and with quite a lovely effect.
The plot follows the titular character of Dorante, played by Christian Conn. Though he has just arrived in Paris, the compulsive liar tells amazing stories of his extensive adventures there. Encountering a pair of women, Dorante convinces himself he's in love with one of them, though the audience wonders if this, too, is a lie. Ultimately, self-delusion can be one of the greatest dangers of games of deception.
Frequently, the play drops in references to lying politicians. This makes Dorante's pathological lying seem far from harmless. Recent events make Ives's light touch feel incongruous with the times, though few can dispute that the playwright has a wonderful way with wordplay. In spite of brightly colored period costumes, the play makes frequent anachronistic allusions, for instance referencing the Eiffel Tower though it won't be built for hundreds of years. In Ives's hands, these small twists can be rendered hysterically funny.
The stand-out performance in this production comes from Kelly Hutchinson, who was also in last year's The Crucible on Broadway. Playing the double role of the twin sisters Isabelle and Sabine, Hutchinson transforms herself from a bubbly sexpot to a humorless grouch and back again. Watching her switch between the two roles is itself worth the trip to the theater.
This delightful comedy is playing until February 26th. For more information and tickets, visit:
Classic Stage Company