Pierre Cornielle wrote “The Liar” in the 17th century, set in 1643, but I’m thinking Dorante is a guy most of us have met at some point along the way — in the neighborhood, in the office, at professional meetings …
Dorante (Ryan George,) makes his debut in this funny role at the Arvada Center, clad in a colorful striped suit — and talks and talks to Cliton (Topher Embrey), who becomes his sidekick shortly. Dorante is determined to land a woman … and his motives are not the most admirable.
He cannot tell a truth — he lies and exaggerates non-stop — with a straight face and graceful body and big dark eyes, which do twinkle a bit. This must be a difficult but fun role. I’d imagine keeping a straight face while building a huge wall of lies must be challenging every time George pulls on that silly suit and steps onstage.
Contemporary, versatile American playwright David Ives translated Cornielle’s really slapstick comedy, which director Geoffrey Kent describes as including “a metric ton of lies …” Ives has a body of work in his own plays in addition to the translations of French farces.
Kent set “The Liar” in Mod 1960s Paris, and the cast includes Dorante, twins Clarice and Lucrece (Noelia Antweiler and Constance Swain), their gum-chewing maid, Isabelle (Kristina Fountaine), who also plays Sabine, Dorante’s bumbling father, Geronte (Logan Ernstthal) and Philiste (Jihad Milhern). In Shakespeare’s time, Cliton and Philiste would probably be household servants, but in 1960s Paris, they’re part of the scene.
And then there’s Alcippe (Sean Scrutchens), who woos Lucrece — or is it Clarice? — twins cause confusion. He is comically certain of his prowess as a suitor and one would doubt that a young woman would take him seriously … And I’m sure his counterpart existed in Cornielle’s 17th-century France … One can picture him with embroidered coat, high wig and pointy shoes!
Dorante’s papa just wishes his son would settle down and get married — but which of those twins is which?
Director Kent writes of “an adaptation resplendent with rhyming pentameter that is chock full of modern references.” He continues: “French comedies (similar to Shakespeare) open up for me when we bring them closer to home and our own lived history. In a play rife with sexual tension and full-throated pursuit of love at any cost (if not forever, at least for right now) this tale wears the 1960s like a pair of skin-tight vinyl Andy Warhol painted GoGo boots.”
The cast of actors is a mix of classically-trained, versatile men and women and watching them at work was pure pleasure. Rhyming couplets in a contemporary English roll off the tongues like smooth buttery syrup — and they pretty much can keep a straight face as they speak out those rhyming couplets.
Ives’ language is easy to understand and laugh at, while it contains a classical edge.
Most cast members are members of Actors Equity — all are real pros. It really takes this level of professional skill to pull off one of these classic farces well — or any comic script for that matter and this play flows without a hitch.
Many of them are making their debut at the Arvada Center and are part of the repertory company that started several years ago. They will cycle through the season with this play, “The Liar,” George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” adapted by Nelson S. Bond, directed by Jessica Roblee, and “Stick Fly” by Lydia R. Diamond, directed by Jada Suzanne Dixon.
Consult Arvada Center’s website for dates of each play, all performed in the lovely Black Box Theatre. I so look forward to seeing these actors on other roles — including farm animals!