What the critics are saying:

Review: 'The Liar' is so funny even the pentameter gets laughs

By Sam Hurwitt

Posted: 10/27/17

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There are few things funnier than watching someone dig himself deeper and deeper into trouble with a web of ridiculous lies. You wonder how he’s going to wriggle out of this mess he’s created or whether it’ll all come crashing down on him.

Such flamboyant prevarication has been a feature of many comedies over the centuries, but, perhaps obviously, it’s the main subject of “The Liar,” the delightful 17th-century comedy that Center REPertory Company is performing at Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center for the Arts.

The 1644 comedy by Pierre Corneille, a French playwright better known in his time for his tragedies, was based on “La verdad sospechosa,” a 1634 comedy by Mexican-born Spanish playwright Juan Ruiz de Alarcon. Corneille’s “Le menteur” features a flamboyant fabulist seemingly incapable of telling the truth, paired with a servant who can’t tell a lie. His inability to keep track of what he’s said to whom soon spins out of control, combined with comic confusion over which one of a pair of inseparable friends he’s wooing.

The comedy is only accentuated by contemporary playwright David Ives (“All in the Timing,” “Venus in Fur”) in a 2010 adaptation that first hit the Bay Area in 2012 at Marin Shakespeare Company.

Far from shying away from the original verse of the play, Ives revels in it. The relentless rhyming feels glib and a bit exhausting at first, but it soon wins us over through sheer absurdity, and a lot of the humor of this adaptation lies in the outrageous lengths Ives will go in the ridiculous rhymes he concocts. At one point our roguish hero tells the woman he’d previously called a clam because she didn’t talk much, ‘You may be a bivalve, but you’re my valve.”

Artistic director Michael Butler’s animated Center REP production is a treat from start to finish, with a superb cast. Even the stage itself seems determined to keep us off-balance, as Erik Flatmo’s steeply slanted and floridly wallpapered set makes the whole world look askew.

As the compulsively dishonest Dorante, Jeremy Kahn combines the impish enthusiasm of feeling he can get away with anything with a hint off desperation when he’s in the middle of a tall tale that’s growing exponentially more implausible with every sentence. Joseph Patrick O’Malley provides Dorante’s perfect audience as his blunt servant Cliton, reacting with priceless gaping wonderment to the stream of lies that he somehow always buys. Howard Swain is charmingly hearty and gullible as the liar’s doting father who’s trying to arrange a marriage for his pride and joy.

Sharon Rietkerk is marvelously sunny and wry as Clarice, the young woman Dorante adores but whose name he didn’t catch, and Lyndsy Kail is much more reserved and amusingly anxious as her constant companion Lucrece. Monique Hafen does comedic double duty as identical twin servants, the flagrantly flirtatious Isabelle and the dour and ornery Sabine.

Craig Marker is hilariously volatile as Clarice’s fiance Alcippe, a frequently flummoxed lummox as sputteringly short-tempered as Yosemite Sam, usually accompanied by entertaining haughty Teddy Spencer as his refined friend Philiste.

They’re all attired in extravagant period costumes designed by Victoria Livingston-Hall, often combined with fancy wigs by Linda Nye. Butler even enlivens the scene changes with goofy dance numbers choreographed by Cassie Nordgren, often performed while lip-syncing French pop versions of familiar hits. The cast even becomes a rock band for one number at the start of the second act, apropos of nothing (along with an impressive operatic aria by Rietkirk), then goes back about its business. It’s all terribly silly, but in a thoroughly enjoyable way. Much like Dorante’s rascally deceptions, this show’s shenanigans aren’t something to be forgiven so much as reveled in.

 

Liar Liar Pants on Fire - 'The Liar' turns Deception into Art

By Vince Mediaa

Posted: 11/10/17

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DAVID IVES ‘THE LIAR’ LANDS LAUGHS AND IS PURE FUN WITH WITTY RHYMED MADNESS

The Center Rep continues their 50th season as the music lowers and a smiling green haired young man in a bright fall colored costume bounds onto the stage and starts his monologue “put away your cell phones and candy.” Then he inspires us to turn off our brains along with our tech, and just laugh at the campy story we are about to see. His words rhyme, he says, “this show is all in pentameter.” THE LIAR is set off and running in Center Reps Company production of David Ives’ hilarious adaptation of Pierre Corneille’s timeless 17th century comedy on the Margaret Lesher stage through November 18th.

Directed by the Center REP's powerhouse Artistic Director Michael Butler who has assembled a marvelous cast of fast talking excellent actors to take this verbiage play to comic perfection. In one fast scene, we meet Dorante played by the terrific Jeremy Kahn who cannot tell the truth. He hires Cliton, his hopelessly honest servant, played by the endearing green haired Joseph Patrick O’Malley, and the frenzy confusion that arises when they team up to win their affections for two Parisian ladies and their distracted maids.

The seventeenth century was a playwright's haven - it started with Shakespeare and moved on to Moliere. Shakes took London by storm while Moliere was one of the best French writers, along with Racine, and Corneille. Pierre Corneille was born in 1606 in Rouen, France. At eighteen he studied to be a lawyer but failed; he then turned to writing plays. His first work “Mélite”, was performed by a traveling troupe that immediately became a huge hit in Paris and Corneille was crowned a success. THE LIAR, or Le Menteur, opened in Paris in 1644. It ran for centuries without any changes. Then in the 1800’s an English adaptation surfaced that was used for years. David Ives took on translating the original piece in the late 2000’s and premiered his work in 2010 at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington D.C. This was the birth of THE LIAR as it is now performed.

Ives, whose plays include the smart Broadway hit Venus in Fur, writes witty, surprising, steamy rhymes. His verse is as absurdly funny as Corneille’s plot itself, loaded with sit com Shakes inspired mistaken identities, twin servant mix-ups and enough romantic madness to keep this farce on high energy throughout. Including the wonderful scene changes choreographed by the clever Cassie Nordgren to the catchy French inspired pop songs including Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walking.” These incredibly entertaining scene changes are becoming a staple of Center Rep’s comedies - I first saw this earlier this season in the hilarious “Women in Jeopardy.”

THE LIAR’S full throttle humor stems from a nonstop flow of clever verbiage zestfully delivered by a vibrant cast that also includes the fanciful Monique Hafen Kelly as twin servants, Izzie and Sabine, one as strict as the other is loose. As fake news floods our headlines daily, the play’s fast paced story may not always seem as clever. Yet the high end excellent escapism of this romp makes a strong statement for pure fun. As Dorante proclaims “a liar’s contribution to the world, it shows us what might be and brings us joy.” Butler directs with his trademark comic pacing and broadly camp approach to farce. The characters may be confused, but the actors playing them never miss a beat of the smart, loaded versifying in this two hour tomfoolery. On an open arena stage with a Paris avant garde slanted wall paper set design by Erik Flatmos, that creates a fun pit of props and set pieces for the cast of eight to play with. Butler gives his agile actors plenty of room to flash their swords, under Nordgren lively sword fight dances. The wow factor is all about Victoria Livingston-Hall’s colorful brilliance, the costumes looked incredible with plumed hats, canes, swooping dresses, velour jackets, sleek capes and divine wigs by Linda Nye. The bosoms highlight the two women's color scheme, and the twin maids are right out of “K pop” candy boxes with some lovely blue shoes that rival Dorothy’s trip to Oz.

This shamelessly seductive cast also includes the elegant jinxed Craig Marker as Alcippe who is the other suitor. Marker kept the sold out midweek audience giggling, chuckling and helplessly listening to some David Ives’ classic pro’s. Cliton, the servant, does his best to keep up with Doronte’s swaggering monologues of lies. He declares, “I don’t eat much/check my diameter; I work, I clean, I speak pentameter.” The witty O’Malley as the servant and narrator Cliton also rhymes “spectrum” and “rectum” when need be. O’Malley is also a charmer at breaking the fourth wall and bringing the audience into the insanity of lies.

Two stylish beauties out for a spring stroll and looking fancy fine in Livinston-Hall’s bright, playful period costumes are splendid on stage. Flirty and chatty Clarice played by the compelling Sharon Rietkerk and her quiet friend Lucrece played by a reserved Lyndsy Kail in wallflower about to explode mode, are instantly charmed by Dorante. Rietkerk and Kail played well off of each other, their comic timing kept the audience in giggle mode. Isabelle and Sabine are both played by Hafen, another incredible performance. Livingston-Hall’s costume change for the two maids was a subtle removal of a hair piece. The proud and confident, Kahn as Doronte yarns grand stories of military tales and juicy verses declaring his new love for Clarice, who he actually just met. We’re all taken in by this liar’s sheer shower of words and gabble, of course the ladies fall for him.

Geronte is Doronte’s father and is portrayed by Howard Swain with a great, fabulously commanding voice. His spritely movements around the stage keeping the older man wise for the part. Philiste is the last puzzle in this madness played by the elegant Teddy Spencer. These two play completely opposite characters. Marker as Alcippe is over the top in everything, he takes the character to the edge and dangles him. Everything to Alcippe is the end of the world and Marker was brilliant in achieving that. Philiste, is a little more down to earth and Spencer's dandy take, plays well off Marker’s sometimes emotional hilarious performance.

Award winning Kurt Landisman’s lighting design transported the audience back in time with some interesting color mixing yet at times still has a modern feel. While there was the normal warm and cool general wash to illuminate the acting area, it was the down stage lights’ saturated color that really made the scenes. Day or night, you could always tell the timeline throughout the play. Stage manager Kathleen J Parsons has to control many crazed entrances and those wonderful set changes set to lip syncing, dance and disco. Caruthers’ sound design definitely helped keep things moving with the added touches of clever music that keeps the cast hopping. The opening to the second Act is a surprise of music and pop added by Butler, played live by the cast and staged by Nordgren.

Does this tangled web of a plot ever resolve itself, we hope not, who wants to see the Liar ever be truthful. Seeing is believing and it’s great fun to watch the crazy plot unravel in such style. Butler’s direction of this classic play is flawless, he stays true to the story as written. The work of his design team matched his effort with eye catching lighting, sound, and costumes that support the beauty of the show. Center Reps Theatre production is professional as always, funny, and extremely well done. As I write up my top ten 2017 list for plays in the Bay Area, THE LIAR is on the top of my pick’s. Center Rep always brings the best to the their season and both the TBA’s and BAT Critics Circle are sure to honor this production. Don’t miss this romp, and remember come ready to have fun and save the “liar liar pants on fire” line for intermission.

 

www.theatrestorm.com

Review: 'The Liar' at Center REP in Walnut Creek

By Charles Kruger

Posted: 11/02/17

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There are few plays in the entire theatrical repertoire as funny as classic French comedies-of-manner. For years, though, English translations have been hobbled by the requirement that all the text be written in rhymed couplets. Too often, the results did not flow trippingly upon the tongue.

But in recent years, the extraordinary adaptations by marvelously gifted playwright David Ives have come to the rescue and provoked many a delightful revival of these classics.

Delightful is just the word to describe Center Repertory Company’s hilariously funny production. Skillfully directed at breakneck speed by Michael Butler, the eight member ensemble squeezes more laughs out of this old workhorse than there are thieves in Washington.

aster seducer Dorante (the charismatic Jeremy Kahn) cannot tell the truth, while his servant Cliton (Joseph Patrick O’Malley) cannot tell a lie. When these two are turned loose in Paris and encounter the beautiful friends Clarice and Lucrece, the attempted seduction becomes absurdly complicated by Dorante’s bottomless imagination.

The plot is tangled and irrelevant. It serves as a premise for some very funny staging and a nonstop assault of witty puns and linguistic somersaults from Ives and Corneille.

This is an ensemble that is perfectly matched, with no minor parts. The eight actors are as tight as any rock band. In fact, they open the second half of the show AS the funniest rock band (“The Liars”) ever, and there’s even a surprise operatic aria thrown in for good measure. Why not?

Special call-out to Craig Marker as the suspicious lover, Alcippe, who is not only a laugh riot, but finds an emotional core to his character that rings true even in the most ridiculous moments.

Monique Hafen is wonderful fun as twin sisters Isabelle and Sabine−one of easy virtue and the other a stick-in-the-mud. Sharon Rietkerk and Lyndsy Kail are great to watch as they make mincemeat of Dorante and his fibs. Howard Swain is full of fine foolery as Dorante’s father, and Teddy Spencer does a lot with a small role as a foppish courtier.

If you attend this play, and don’t laugh, you’d better call in a doctor. You’re probably comatose.

 

Review: Center REP's production of 'The Liar' Offers a Tangled Web of Tall Tales Told in Shakespearian Verse

By Jan Miller

Posted: 11/02/17

theliar

There are few plays in the entire theatrical repertoire as funny as classic French comedies-of-manner. For years, though, English translations have been hobbled by the requirement that all the text be written in rhymed couplets. Too often, the results did not flow trippingly upon the tongue.

But in recent years, the extraordinary adaptations by marvelously gifted playwright David Ives have come to the rescue and provoked many a delightful revival of these classics.

Delightful is just the word to describe Center Repertory Company’s hilariously funny production. Skillfully directed at breakneck speed by Michael Butler, the eight member ensemble squeezes more laughs out of this old workhorse than there are thieves in Washington.

aster seducer Dorante (the charismatic Jeremy Kahn) cannot tell the truth, while his servant Cliton (Joseph Patrick O’Malley) cannot tell a lie. When these two are turned loose in Paris and encounter the beautiful friends Clarice and Lucrece, the attempted seduction becomes absurdly complicated by Dorante’s bottomless imagination.

The plot is tangled and irrelevant. It serves as a premise for some very funny staging and a nonstop assault of witty puns and linguistic somersaults from Ives and Corneille.

This is an ensemble that is perfectly matched, with no minor parts. The eight actors are as tight as any rock band. In fact, they open the second half of the show AS the funniest rock band (“The Liars”) ever, and there’s even a surprise operatic aria thrown in for good measure. Why not?

Special call-out to Craig Marker as the suspicious lover, Alcippe, who is not only a laugh riot, but finds an emotional core to his character that rings true even in the most ridiculous moments.

Monique Hafen is wonderful fun as twin sisters Isabelle and Sabine−one of easy virtue and the other a stick-in-the-mud. Sharon Rietkerk and Lyndsy Kail are great to watch as they make mincemeat of Dorante and his fibs. Howard Swain is full of fine foolery as Dorante’s father, and Teddy Spencer does a lot with a small role as a foppish courtier.

If you attend this play, and don’t laugh, you’d better call in a doctor. You’re probably comatose.

 

theatrius.com

'The Liar' Delights, at Center REP, Walnut Creek

By Robert M. Gardner

Posted: 11/7/17

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David Ives' Modernized Corneille Classic Rings True

“The Liar” is a hoot!  This is a very good comedy that delights on many levels. The Lesher Center has scored another hit with a brilliant cast under the skillful guidance of Director Michael Butler. The liar is Dorante (irrepressible Jeremy Kahn), an incorrigible, mendacious Cavalier, newly arrived in Paris.  The liar hires the always truthful Cliton (exuberant Joseph Patrick O’Malley) as his servant who quickly becomes his confidant and accomplice in finding a woman. When Dorante spots Clarice (effervescent Sharon Rietkerk) and her shy friend Lucrece (winsome Lyndsy Kail) walking in the plaza, the chase is on.

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Immediately smitten by the beauty of the frivolous Clarice, Dorante intrigues her with his fabricated military accomplishments. Dorante firmly believes that lying leads to success, especially with women. (Sound familiar?) Full of innuendo, word play, and sleazy subterfuge, David Ives’ fast-paced, sexy romp through Pierre Corneille, in iambic pentameter, assures non-stop laughter.

Clarice is attended by identical twins Isabelle and Sabine (alternately puckish/stern Monique Hafen) who conspire with her. To add to the confusion, Isabelle flirts with Cliton while Sabine rejects him, leaving Cliton bewildered. Hafen is a delight in her dual roles and her sweet mastery of physical comedy.

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The two damsels, though they be smarter and wittier than the average dames who are frail, are played with eloquence and gravitas by Sharon Rietkerk and Lyndsy Kail. Madame Kail dons the frock of Lucrece, the victim of the Liar’s lies but who ends up with wedded peace. Her timing is great and presence divine, don’t blink during her scenes, or you’ll define yourself swine. Madame Rietkerk, Clarice as she is called, delivers a well of ingénue hilarity that is unequalled. She dashingly dashes and flittingly flirts, with lovely grunts and amusing blurts. Her servant girls, played by one actress with twice the duty per scene, is Monique Hafen, portraying sisters’ Isabelle and Sabine. Mademoiselle Hafen’s chameleon-like presence makes each sister more nuanced in detailed essence. Isabelle is a fun-loving, free-wheeling scamp, while the polar opposite Sabine makes for a deadpan vamp. The three ladies, among several gentlemen, add to the hilarity by executing Cassie Nordgren’s choreography with energetic parody. The style is there, the movement is fun, the music intoxicating, an effort second-to-none.

Rounding out the band of misfits is Craig Marker, an ardently animated Alcippe; Teddy Spencer, a plungingly peacockish Philiste; and Howard Stein as a gauche but gallivanting Geronte, father to Dorante. These three men, rightfully placed in places that placate the play with spritely passion, put the panache on the playful position in the plot they are poised to perform without blot. To bring it around, as I’m sure you eager to dash to The Liar’s town, this play is without flaw, one that will make sore your jaw. Chuckling will be constant, laughter will be induced, please head to the Lesher so you can theatrically seduced.