By David Ives
Adapted from the play by Pierre Corneille
Directed by Charlie Sexton
A review by Brian Kennedy
Entire contents are copyright © 2021 by Brian Kennedy. All rights reserved.
Truth be told, The Liar at Commonwealth Theatre is a solid, hilarious production from beginning to end.
David Ives adapted his comedy from the Pierre Corneille play. It deals with a hero, Dorante, who cannot seem to do anything but lie. When he falls for Clarice (or was that Lucrece?), the lies become increasingly twisted and farcical. It doesn’t help that his love interest has a few secrets of her own.
Director Charlie Sexton, in his program note, stated he wanted to direct this play as his first since the pandemic hit. With all the seriousness of the outside world, it was a pleasure to come inside and watch a group of very talented actors nail their respective roles with energy and wonderful character choices. Of particular note wer the high-pitched voice and over-the-top antics of Alcippe (Lachlan Apple) and the deadpan expressions of the servant Sabine (Jessie Burke, one of two roles she performed). Although each actor earned laughs during the show, Apple and Burke seemed to earn the biggest laugh with their character choices.
The actors pulled off their characters while speaking mostly in iambic pentameter. The rhythm and rhyme, effortlessly showcased in the play’s beginning thanks to valet Cliton (Lucy Dingman-Root) with the rest of the cast continuing the rhythm with gusto, were quick to figure out and easy to follow. That rhythm stuck in a few audience members’ heads during intermission and after the show.
Within the rhymes were plenty of Neil Simonesque one-liners. The cast delivered these joyously, leading to many laughs from the audience.
However, the lines provided a few issues when dealing with a character’s facial expressions. All the cast members, like the audience, were wearing masks. When Dorante (Alexander Diakov) asks “What’s with the frown?”, how does he know? A slight update to the line, while possibly staying in pentameter, might be helpful for this unique situation.
The set and costumes stayed true to the Jacobean era, which was just after William Shakespeare. The stage was mostly bare save for a couple of balconies that wouldn’t be out of place in Romeo and Juliet. For some scenes, chairs or signs were brought out but actors still had plenty of room to roam.
Costumes, meanwhile, included swords for Dorante and Alcippe dangling awkwardly at their sides. If the swords were like that for comedic effect, it worked. It was also interesting trying to figure out how Burke, in one costume, would perform that character, regardless if it was as Sabine or Isabelle, go offstage, then quickly return as the other character, wearing a completely different costume.
With all the fun elements involved, if potential audience members are looking to experience a hilarious, absurd show to just kick back, relax and laugh, look no further than The Liar at Commonwealth Theatre.
November 11 – 21, 2021Commonwealth Theatre Center
1123 Payne Street
Louisville, KY 40204
Brian Kennedy is a nearly life-long Louisville resident who has performed in plays since 2004. He also wrote extensively about the Louisville theatre scene for Louisville.com and Examiner.com from 2009-2015. Currently, he maintains the theatre blog LouBriantheater. When not involved in the theatre scene, he is an avid runner, participating in 5Ks throughout the state and in southern Indiana.