Westport Playhouse: The Liar

In order to be a really good liar, one must have two special attributes. First a liar must have the ability to lie flagrantly and convincingly, and second, the liar must have an excellent memory.

The Westport Country Playhouse is staging David Ives’ “translaptation (translation with a heavy dose of adaptation)” of Pierre Corneille’s 1643 comedy, The Liar. Here’s a play where lying is at its most preposterous.

It all begins with the leading character Dorante. He just can’t tell the truth. To add to the comedy, his servant Cliton cannot tell a lie. Ives has really gotten into 17th Century Paris and adds to the farce dialog that is in iambic pentameter.

When Dorante starts sharing his wartime stories, his servant can’t believe his master’s outrageous lies. Clarice and Lucrece appear on the scene and Dorante continues spouting his heroic deeds and then praises Clarice, whom he thinks is Lucrece. Add to the confusion, a set of twins, Isabelle and Sabine. One is sweet and the other sour. Cliton doesn’t know there are two and gets hilariously confused as one flirts with him and the other slaps him.

Dorante  is such a liar that he lies to his father who wants to find a wife for his son. He lies about already having a wife with a child on the way. However, Dorante has a bad memory and can’t keep track of the many lies he has told. He forgets the name of his fictitious wife and the make-believe town where she’s from. Therefore, he keeps making up more and more lies to cover his errors.

His good friend Alcippe gets into a wild sword-swishing duel albeit with imaginary swords (you have to see it to believe it)  when he thinks Dorante has been having an affair with his fiancé. It is absolutely hilarious to see these two going at each other with their index fingers. However, after a few good swipes and even better lies, Alcippe ends up hugging Dorante.

The liar even lied to his father and told him that he was married and expecting a child. One would think that his goose was finally cooked when he falls in love with Lucrece. Keep in mind, Dorante is a master liar, but he doesn’t really harm anyone. That’s why audiences can laugh out loud at these ridiculous lies.

Directed with accuracy and funny bone intact by Penny Metropulos, the cast is terrific.  Aaron Krohn plays the dashing Dorante with great spontaneity and without missing a rhyme. Rusty Ross plays Cliton and could easily substitute for the non-stop battery bunny. Kate Maccluggage plays a sassy Clarice and Monique Barbee creates a quiet, shy, and classy Lucrece. Rebekah Brockman takes on the dual personalities of Isabelle and Sabine and like a light switch completely turns sweetness on and off to capture each of her characters’ contrasting dispositions.

Rounding off the cast are Philippe Bowgen, Brian Reddy, and Jay Russell, who all turn in memorable performances. Kristen Robinson’s fanciful forest constructed of modernistic three dimension plastic is easily recognizable as trees and fun to watch as they light up. They are in sync with Jessica Ford’s quasi-period costumes that at first glance look like period costumes until the women walk in them and reveal wildly designed and colored hosiery.

The finishing touch for this winning production is Matthew Richards lighting design and David Budries’ sound design. It’s a very funny, laugh-out-loud comedy, and that’s no lie. It plays through May 23. Box office:203-227-4177.

Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association.  She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]

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