Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The School for Lies
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of Hir


The Cast
Photo by Scott Suchman
Playwright David Ives makes a welcome return to the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Lansburgh Theatre in Washington with Michael Kahn's effervescent production of The School for Lies, Ives' antic reworking of Molière's 1666 play Le Misanthrope in modern-flavored rhymed couplets.

Ives calls the play a "translaptation" rather than a translation, as it diverges from Molière's original plot in several ways, most of which appear to have been lifted from Shakespeare's comedies. As the prologue states, "Screw Molière! We'll do our own version."

The plot remains an examination of a blunt truth-telling aristocrat, here given the name Frank (Gregory Wooddell), and his anger toward the artificiality he sees in Paris society. (The year is still 1666, but Alexander Dodge's set intermingles elegant Louis XIV chairs and an exaggeratedly tall chest of drawers with zany bits of contemporary art and design: a red loveseat in the shape of a pair of lips, a hanging sculpture that resembles a balloon animal.)

Frank rages against the "alternative facts" and "fake news" (Ives has updated his script since its premiere in 2011) that plague society, whether embodied by a pompous aspiring poet in a sculpted red wig (the estimable Tom Story) or revealed through a poisonously funny hypocrite (the amazing Veanne Cox, who can get laughs just by flexing her fingers). The center of the social circle is Celimene (Victoria Frings), a witty young widow who is just as acerbic as Frank but not so forthright about it. Invented gossip, insincere love letters, romance powered by manipulation—it's all here and it's charming.

Other notable performances are Dorea Schmidt as Celimene's wide-eyed, utterly sincere cousin; Cody Nickell as Frank's befuddled friend; and Michael Glenn as two servants, a prissy one (his handling of a tray of canapes becomes a running gag) and a slovenly one.

Murell Horton's costumes maintain the balance between eras through a blend of 17th-century fashion (men's breeches and stockings, for example) and modern fabrics (one man wears a screen-printed tunic that depicts a man's face). The total effect is slightly disorienting yet delightful.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
The School for Lies
May 30th – July 9th, 2017
By David Ives, adapted from Le Misanthrope by Molière
Frank, a native of Paris, newly returned: Gregory Wooddell
Celimene, a young widow of Paris society: Victoria Frings
Eliante, her cousin: Dorea Schmidt
Philinte, enamored of Eliante: Cody Nickell
Arsinoé, a moral pillar: Veanne Cox
Clitander, an influential courtier: Cameron Folmar
Oronte, a boulevard bard: Tom Story
Acaste, a moneyed marquis: Liam Craig
Dubois, Celimene's servant/Basque, Frank's valet: Michael Glenn
Directed by Michael Kahn
Harman Center for the Arts, Lansburgh Theatre
450 7th St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or www.shakespearetheatre.org>


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