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'The Liar' Reveals True Comedy with Stunning Clarity

French playwright Pierre Corneille is to France as Shakespeare is to England.

Favored by Cardinal Richelieu and critiqued by Voltaire, Corneille was best known for his tragedies but clearly also astute in creating comedy. His comedy “Le Menteur” was first published in 1644. “Le Menteur” has languished in obscurity for some centuries. In 2010, noted American playwright David Ives embraced the daunting task of translating “Le Menteur” into English. A pure translation often lacks the truth revealed in the original, and the resulting play, “The Liar,” is closer to an adaptation, or as Ives states “…a translaptation, i.e. a translation with a heavy dose of adaptation.” The result is a work which maintains the integrity of Corneille’s intent and humor, preserves the comedy in verse, and creates a relevance to the 21st century. 

Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park’s artistic director Kathryn McGill is excited to bring “The Liar” to Oklahoma audiences. Board President Rob Gallavan is also delighted and brings his considerable talent as an actor to the production. Laura Standley, associate professor of theatre at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts returns to her native state and original stomping grounds to direct “The Liar” at OSP’s Paseo location.

The result is an evening of hysterical theatrics, original music, verse that is second nature and unbridled humor. Gallavan plays Dorante, a young rogue recently come to Paris to become a man about town. He cannot tell the truth. He meets a young fellow, Cliton, who cannot tell a lie and immediately hires him as the perfect foil of a valet. The two of them embark on the adventures of seduction in the romantic city of Paris.

Dorante falls in love with Clarice, but is confused, thinking she is Lucrece. Lucrece and Clarice are best friends forever and do very little to clear up the confusion, although Lucrece actually returns his love.  Lucrece is secretly engaged to Alcippe, who is a long lost chum of Dorante’s. Cliton is attracted to the maid, Isabelle, a femme fatale but keeps encountering her twin, Sabine, a battle-axe. The plot thickens when Dorante’s father, Geronte, shows up after arranging Dorante’s marriage to Clarice. Dorante must escape this fate because he loves Lucrece, not knowing she is Clarice. Another lie is born. A tangled web indeed, yet the actors are able to capitalize on the confusion as they provide clarity to the audience.

In addition to director Standley’s innovative staging, she has assembled a cast that is a veritable who’s who of who knows who. The deliberate and concise delivery from each actor treats the convoluted plot with clarity and precision. Verse may be a bit easier for actors to memorize, but it is difficult to emote and sound natural.

The entire cast superbly navigates the script enabling the audience to fully understand the action and appreciate the humor. Gallavan enthralls the audience with a mesmerizing execution of the conniving Dorante. Justin Baker is ideally suited for Cliton, entertaining and informing with humor and fresh simplicity. Bree Redmond as Lucrece is sincere, stunning and slightly silly. Eliza Hare as Clarice is genuine, gorgeous and generally giddy. The two lovely girls are typical 21st century boy-crazy teens who happen to fit perfectly into the French culture of 400 years past. Nicholas Mayes is convincing as the typical Parisian of the day with overtones of the affectations associated with celebrity. Dakota Lee Bryant plays Philiste with a fabulous façade and an outrageous attitude. He straddles the fine line between fop and foible but never crosses that line. David Fletcher-Hall imbues Geronte with clownish enthusiasm and core integrity. His calculated timing and control as he cavorts allow him to also display his faith in his son. Renee Krapff plays the identical twins, Isabelle and Sabine, with perfect distinction.  The twins are polar opposites and Krapff switches from one to another smoothly and quite comically. 

The music is original. The multi-talented Fletcher-Hall composes with a timely timelessness that has a medieval feel, a French flavor and a modern flair establishing the mood perfectly. With his guitar he leads two additional band members, Dillon LeFebvre on cello and keyboards and Isaiah Justin on drums and percussion. 

Tamitha Zook put together beautiful costumes for this production, and Ben Hall lends his expertise to the unusual set with help from Scott Hynes. Chris Evans helps define the action with comfortable lighting. Behind the scenes, “The Liar” uses a competent and interesting crew to make a difficult space easy to work with. Standley’s excellence as a director is not without important contributions from the entire production staff. Assistant director Caprice Woosley, production stage manager Amandanell Bold, and assistant stage manager Sydney Gusstafson all make significant contributions to this show. The work of dramaturg, Kae Koger, is very much a key element of Standley’s success.

Clearly, “The Liar” is a great show with lots of laughs and no disappointments. Each moment is a treasure and measure of superb simplicity in a complicated and potentially very confusing play. 

“The Liar” is performed through Sept. 3, 2016, at Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park’s indoor location at 2920 Paseo in the Paseo District. OSP will return to the Water Stage at The Myriad in downtown Oklahoma City for their next production: Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” on Sept. 8, 2016.

For information about “The Liar” or any other production, visit or call (405) 235-3700. Curtain is 8 p.m. Come early, park wherever you see a space and enjoy the sights in the Paseo art community or the Myriad Gardens for the outdoor shows.


Elizabeth Hurd

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