4 Stars for David Ives' adaptation of Pierre Corneille's classical French comedy THE LIAR at Vanderbilt University Opens 4/6 (Nashville) — David Ives , Jaz Dorsey , Vanderbilt U — AAPEX

Sunday, April 8, 2012

4 Stars for David Ives' adaptation of Pierre Corneille's classical French comedy THE LIAR at Vanderbilt University Opens 4/6 (Nashville)

David Ives' adaptation of Pierre Corneille's classical French comedy THE LIAR immediately goes on my short list of the most brilliant writing I have ever enjoyed.

I was already a huge fan of Corneille and his contemporaries, Moliere and Racine. These fellows wrote amazing plays entirely in verse and what they did with language is a lesson in what language can do. Now this American playwright has come along brought the joys of this style of writing - and theatre - to new heights. No wonder he won an award for it.

The credit for getting me hooked goes to Director Terryl Hallquist and the extraordinary cast she has put together for the production at Vanderbilt which opened tonight (Friday, April 6. 2012). These outstanding young actors absolutely nail every challenge that the play has to offer in this frothy romp of fops and high spirited gals and the script proves an ideal vehicle for actors in this age bracket- and it's all VERY FUNNY. In fact, this crew would probably rock on Broadway just as they are.

Plays of this era are usually chosen to allow students to study a particular style of acting. In this case, the style - as well as the character and plot devices - come out of the Italian Comedia Del' Arte, to which Corneille et al gave a French twist, capturing with great art the posturings and strut of the French aristocracy in the age of Louis XIV. Ives has infused the original with the narcotics of now and Hallquist and her crew have found perfection in this balance of classical and contemporary semiotics. Physically the troupe adheres to the dynamics of gesture and grace, but there delivery is right out of TWO AND A HALF men. It's the perfect play for your couch potato friends with an addiction to sit com. But witty as Oscar Wilde and as quirky as Mel Brooks.

Since these productions are all about training actors, they really deserve the attention here.

Duncan Hall looks a lot like Johnny Depp in
Pirates of the Caribbean. He plays Dorante, the charming liar of the title and Mr. Hall has SOME serious sociopath mojo going on. As Cliton, the mandatory valet and sidekick, Aaron Moscow is an adept foil to his partner and there is very nice teamwork between them.

The same can be said of the two young ladies who portray the amorous interests. Jessica Owens is delightfully vivacious as Clarice, while Hannah Viroslav is more restrained and classical in her interpretation as Lucrece.

Samantha Riley turns in a most laudable performance as twins; in fact, until I looked at my program, I thought she was two different actresses. The distinction between her two characters is well crafted.

Arian Flores is goofy but dashing as the bewildered Alcippe who gets caught in the middle of Dorantes fabrications. His sidekick/second, Philiste, is nicely turned out by Matt Brennan.

Rounding out the cast is Will Bonfiglio as Dorante's amiable but gullible father, family friendly Geronte.

The cast looks spectacular in Alexandra Sargent Capps enchanting costumes, which are also extremely amusing. Like other elements of this production, they celebrate the meeting of the eras and dance magically on Amanda Sweger's three tiered patisserie of a set. In fact, one reason to catch university productions such as this one is that young designers and the faculty who mentor them enjoy a level of artistic opportunity that they will, unfortunately, rarely find in the "real world" - either because of budgetary limitations or other barriers that seem to be a fact of life.

THE LIAR has no sensible moral or social message - it's all about the magnificence of language and what we can do with it when we want to tickle the mind. So avail yourself of this carnival of words, get over to Vanderbilt and take in this butterfly of a show. I would particularly recommend this experience to high school aged students of theatre and acting - you'll learn as much about both here as you would putting in a semester at the Yale Drama School.

Mostly, be prepared to laugh: academically speaking, THE LIAR is a hoot.

Please click the post's title to visit Vanderbilt University's Theatre home page.

Come to Nashville and Go to the Theatre.

Jaz Dorsey
AAPEX Dramaturg
The Nashville Dramaturgy Project

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