“The Liar” -- Westport Country Playhouse

--Irene Backalenick

What’s happening at the Westport Country Playhouse? David Ives, a playwright of considerable ingenuity and skill, has translated and adapted a 1643 French classic -- namely, Corneille’s “The Liar.” This piece was considered to be the greatest comedy of its period, the Golden Era of French drama.

The Ives version, now on stage at the Westport theater (having had its premiere at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington DC), reflects the playwright’s sure-fire rhyming and other talents (not to mention his command of two languages). And indeed it moves well to the modern page. But the production itself grows tiresome over the two-hour run, and would do well to have remained on the printed page.

In fact, “The Liar,” on stage, misses the mark, perhaps because of uneven casting or the triviality of the plot itself. In any event, one longs for the opportunity to savor Ives’ clever rhyming schemes, rereading lines as one wishes. On the page, “The Liar” does not have to carry the heavy burden of a full-scale production (with set, cast, staging, promotion and all).

What is this sugary little bon-bon? “The Liar,” as both Ives and Corneille see it, deals with Dorante, an anti-hero, a young man who cannot help telling lies. He manages to elude one scrape after another, dealing with the lady he courts, the friend he betrays, the parent he fails. Ultimately, he is hopelessly tied into knots...But of course he reforms, and all ends well for Dorante and his associates.

As to the production, on the plus side are Kristen Robinson’s charmingly light-hearted set design and director Penny Metropulos’ lively pace. And in the cast, Rebekah Brockman turns in two striking performances as twin-sister servants -- leaping between roles in Olympic style. And Brian Reddy, as the duped father Geronte, brings much-needed humanity to the otherwise cold, stylized production.

In all, this staging of “The Liar” sends us scurrying to the drama bookstores to find Ives’ commendable effort in print. “Escapade” rhymes with what?

This review also appears in nycttheaterscene.com

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