Last week, students and teachers from the Lawrence Department of Theatre Arts performed “The Liar” by David Ives, a farcical play featuring a main character who tells endless lies, and his companion, who can only tell the truth. The show ran four times on three different days in the Stansbury Theatre, the second-largest performance space on campus.
“The Liar” was first performed in French as “Le Menteur” in 1644. Pierre Corneille’s original version was well-received then, but has been largely unperformed in recent years until David Ives revamped it in 2010. Terming it a “translaptation”—from “translation and adaptation”—he rewrote the script in modern English with a focus on self-aware humor.
The protagonist, Dorante, was played by freshman Marco Mazetta. He has been involved in several productions this year and played this role with the confidence it demanded. In an attempt to seduce the lovely Lucrece, played by senior Isabel Hemley, he tells her of his heroism in the war, his decadent parties and his brunches with the Queen—all falsehoods.
Hasty in his pursuit of love, Dorante confuses Lucrece for her friend Clarice, played by junior Maddie Scanlan. However, Clarice is secretly engaged to Dorante’s old friend Alcippe, played by junior Tony Harth. All along, Dorante’s father Geronte, played by senior Matt Johnson, is trying to marry him to Clarice.
Dorante creates temporary solutions to all of these misunderstandings in the form of elaborate and hilarious fictions, but his friends catch up as they speak to each other in private and the many faces of Dorante become known. Adding to the confusion are the twins Isabelle and Sabine, played by junior Lauren Abdul, and Alcippe’s pacifist companion Philiste, played by sophomore Rory Coleman.
The characters frequently directed asides toward the audience, jabbing at another onstage character or hinting at what might happen next. Before the show began, viewers were treated to an in-character introduction by junior Zoey Lin as Cliton, butler and sidekick to Dorante. The audience took a moment to adjust to the surprising usage of iambic pentameter, as most surely imagined Ives’ modern adaptation would be much more casual or simple.
The production had a unique and strong visual style, involving colorful and slightly mismatched costumes and set pieces. The costumes of the two central female characters, Clarice and Lucrece, consisted of frilly pink dresses, headdresses made of flowers and pink tennis shoes. Dorante, the protagonist, wore lime green formal wear with a frilly hat. Cliton wore an electric blue wig. Colors played a large role in the visual identities of each character.
Dorante’s line from early in Act I—“You may have read my name in the gazette. I caused, if not some buzz, then a buzzette”—exemplifies the type of wordplay delivered throughout the two-hour show. The audience laughed often as the jokes flew by in poetic verse, and the rhythmic pentameter came to feel more natural as the show progressed. The rapid pace of delivery was augmented with frequent set changes.
“The Liar,” despite its comedic tone, is quite cynical about the workings of the world. Its characters prefer to fantasize about the way things could be or might have been rather than actively solving their problems. Dorante asserts “The unimagined life’s not worth living,” so the play begs the question, “Why not invent a false one?” At the end of the play, the many characters all reconcile and live happily ever after. While such a conclusion seemed vaguely unsatisfying, it left the audience members to come to their own conclusions.