Decidedly cute, The Liar, is currently brightening the Classic Stage Company just off Union Square. This quick-paced farce is adapted by David Ives of Venus in Fur fame from a comedy written by Pierre Corneille, a man known better for his well-received tragedies. The light-hearted (and one could say well-timed) story centers on Dorante, a man who tells lies as easily as he skewers his friend with an invisible sword. Written in iambic pentameter — including a few lines purloined from mighty Shakespeare — the crafty script is dotted with modern references to personal ads, fraternity handshakes, and general self-awareness. This keeps the 17th century spirit intact while making the work relevant and entertaining for a broad audience.
Director Michael Kahn commissioned the piece in his role as artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington DC, where it received a world premiere in 2010. A quick perusal of the Who’s Who reveals a seasoned cast well connected with both the director and the writer as well as a number of quality Off Broadway houses. The results are surefooted if not stunningly original or particularly generous to audience members seated on the sides of the 3/4 round.
As portrayed by Christian Conn, Dorante is smooth if somewhat lacking in the necessary magnetism to fully hold the center. He keep things flowing as fluidly as the falsehoods roll off the rogue’s tongue. As the object of his current fancy, Clarice, Ismenia Mendes delivers too many of her lines at a high pitch squeal, leaving her nowhere to go as her situation escalates in intensity. Amelia Pedlow in the role of Lucrece has slight advantage as her character is silent for much of play’s first half, allowing her to step into her own power in Act Two.
These leading players are greatly upstaged by the stars of the subplot, starting with Carson Elrod as the loyal and eternally truthful Cliton. His joyful performance perfectly balances physical and verbal humor to delightful effect. Even better is Kelly Hutchinson who by all appearances is having the time of her life playing twin sisters Isabel and Sabine. Kudos to wig and hair designer J. Jared Janas for finding the perfect clip-on to aid Ms Hutchinson in her rapid changes between the two.
Scenic designer Alexander Dodge supports the lively pace, keeping settings simple with a few flown-in paintings and chandeliers and other set pieces pushed into place by the characters. Award winning costumer, Murell Horton, decks the cast in easy to move in gowns and tunics with a nod to the proper period. Original music, which adds a frothy layer, was developed by Adam Wernick in his CSC debut.
Great for a date and a safe bet for Mom, The Liar provides a carefree, low stakes two hours. Tickets are available through February 26, 2017 at http://www.classicstage.org/season/the-liar/