Although it is indeed a classical piece in its origin, the presence of this version of The Liar introduces a modern sensibility to the Young American Shakespeare Festival at Walden Theatre. The setting and especially the grand and glorious costumes by Laura Patterson are firmly period, but the new translation by noted playwright David Ives (Venus in Fur) updates the iambic verse with a modern sensibility and quick wit that positions this as one of the more accessible verse texts you are likely to encounter.
The story follows Dorante, a fellow who is truthful only in explaining the merits of his gift for compulsive mendacity. After pressing the hapless Cliton into his service, he meets two women in the Tuileries of Paris, setting out to woo the one named Clarice…except he has confused her with her friend Lucrece. Cliton is quite taken with Lucrece’s servant Isabelle, whose twin sister Sabine is servant to Clarice…. Yeah, it’s that kind of plot, but Mr. Ives works the story elements for all they are worth, lacing the scenes together with sharp dialogue and forming the whole into a tightly constructed scenario that seems designed to move with economy.
Director Charlie Sexton gives it a brisk staging that makes the most of a smaller cast than the Shakespeare plays also featured in the festival. Jake Nichols delivers a tour de force performance as Dorante, using rakish charm to allow us to connect with a character who seems lacking in empathy and compassion for others. He seizes the stage in commanding fashion and never lets it go. As Cliton, Aaron Roitman proves a more than able foil for Dorante, with a sparkling energy that, at times, almost steals the show from Mr. Nichols. The women who suffer the shenanigans and eventually master the fools behind them are essayed with grace and supple good humor by Jordan Lee (Clarice) and Callie Trawick (Lucrece); and I found Tess Varga to be an absolute delight as the twin servants, Isabelle and Sabine.
It bears repeating that The Liar is a much-lauded new translation from 2010 and that this production is the local premiere of this material. For theatre-goers who might be put off by the idea of a verse play, I would encourage them to give this a try. In this merging of modern and classical energies, Walden Theatre offers a real treat to Louisville audiences.
The Liar May 9-19
Running in repertory with The Liar and The Tempest in Walden’s annual Young American Shakespeare Festival
Tim & Dair Mathistad
Katie & Chris Haulter
Kathy Todd Chaney
Angie Reed Garner