Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Liar

Also see Susan's review of Sophisticated Ladies

Erin Partin and Christian Conn
Washington's Shakespeare Theatre Company has introduced many neglected classical works to contemporary audiences, but few of them are as much plain fun as The Liar, a 1643 comedy by Pierre Corneille as translated and adapted by David Ives. With Michael Kahn's sure-handed direction and a company of able farceurs, it's as weightless as the billowing sheer white curtains on Alexander Dodge's clever set.

The title character is Dorante (Christian Conn), a young lawyer just arrived in Paris from his provincial home. Whatever he lacks in money or social position, he compensates for by demonstrating his prodigious skill in making up richly detailed lies about himself. As he states epigrammatically: "The unimagined life is not worth living." (Ives sprinkles his rhyming couplets with tongue-in-cheek references to the works of Shakespeare, among others, and frequent zany bits of wordplay: "The Louvre has mouvred.")

In the course of a few eventful days, Dorante falls in love at first sight with a blonde beauty (Erin Partin), but confusion over her identity leads him into an escalating series of scrapes. He keeps his father (David Sabin) from arranging a marriage for him by inventing a wife back home; he staggers through a choreographed duel with a friend (Tony Roach) over a misunderstood question of honor; and along the way, Dorante's servant Cliton (Adam Green) stumbles into his own epic saga of mistaken identity with identical twin maids (Colleen Delany), one racy and one prim. (It's amazing what a difference a simple lace collar can make!)

Dodge picks up the motif of trompe l'oeil—purposeful illusion—with a scenic design made to look a lot like cardboard. As the action progresses, flower-bedecked balconies emerge from the side walls, square trees appear in the background, and a large topiary in the shape of a poodle takes center stage. Murell Horton's sumptuous costumes, Jeff Croiter's color-washed lighting design, and Adam Wernick's music add life to the already robust proceedings.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
The Liar April 6th —May 29th
Adapted by David Ives from the comedy by Pierre Corneille
Dorante, a young man just arrived in Paris: Christian Conn
Geronte, Dorante's father: David Sabin
Cliton, Dorante's servant: Adam Green
Clarice, a young lady of Paris: Erin Partin
Lucrece, Clarice's best friend: Miriam Silverman
Alcippe, Clarice's secret fiancé: Tony Roach
Philiste, Alcippe's friend: Aubrey Deeker
Isabelle, vivacious servant to Lucrece/Sabine, puritanical servant to Clarice: Colleen Delany
Directed by Michael Kahn
Lansburgh Theatre 450 7th St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or

Photo: Scott Suchman

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