Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 11, 2013

The Liar

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
through March 24, 2013
by Shera Cohen

About 370 years ago, playwright Pierre Corneille penned one of the most cunning farces of that era, titled “Le Menteur.” Oddly, Corneille was dubbed “the founder of French tragedy,” yet the gentleman probably needed a break from gloom, because brought to Shakespeare & Company’s stage in the gloom of New England winter is “The Liar.” The story is light, and includes love and feigned love, mistaken identity, a funny maid (actually two), etc.

There’s no need to know French to enjoy this brilliant fabrication set to rhymed couplets. Contemporary playwright David Ives has accomplished the task of translating or adapting the original into quick-witted dialogue. Sometimes the rhyme is a bit of a stretch, making the words even more humorous. Bravo to the seven actors who speak, seemingly, effortlessly. Director Kevin Coleman, a master of moving his cast fast and furiously through many Shakespeare & Co. farces, has exceeded even his own benchmark of talent.

Photo by Kevin Sprague
Our hero is a handsome young man whose occupation is that of an inept professional liar. David Joseph, an actor who has certainly proved his metal at this venue, has moved up the ranks to leading role. His Dorante (Liar) is suave yet slippery, intelligent yet dumb, egotistical yet soft-hearted. He’s a loveable cocky SOB. With a rapid fire tongue, Joseph rips through his rhyming repartee, while at the same time running, jumping, and fighting. Indeed, the duel between Dorante and Alcippe (Enrico Spada) becomes the high point of the play. Imagine an aggressive sword fight without swords with each exceptionally choreographed lunge simultaneously described by Joseph as both the participant and referee.

The entire cast is always on point, and apparently having a super time pulling off this comedy. Of particular note is Dana Harrison in the dual role as twins Isabelle and Sabine, one sister as dim and frothy as the other is prim and stern. Both are a hoot.

There's so much more to write about this terrific cast; and…there’s backstage “stuff”: 1600’s indoor/outdoor settings with minimal staging, costume designs worthy of prizes and booby prizes (Pops dressed like a bumble bee), sound effects.

Dorante’s motto is, “Never, ever, ever speak the truth.” Alas, truth must be spoke…get ye to “The Liar” foresooth.