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"The unimagined life is not worth living."
This line, spoken by the protagonist of David Ives' The Liar, seemed to be the cornerstone of the comedy on Deep Dish Theater's opening night in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Adapted from Pierre Corneille's French original Le Menteur, the farce is fairly straightforward: Dorante, an extravagant stranger, arrives in town and is immediately taken with a lady he meets in passing. With the help of his hired manservant Cliton, Dorante attempts to thwart plans for the lady's marriage as well as his own. Identities are mistaken, flamboyant lies are told, and hilarity ensues, all in rhyming pentameter. The idea of a full-length play spoken in verse may tempt some ticket buyers to run for the hills, but rest assured the verse of this comedy is worth every penny. Playwright Ives' rhyming text is exceptionally clever, and the Deep Dish cast landed every joke.
Roman Pearah was every bit the captivating storyteller as Dorante, "the liar" and title character. Matthew Hager's Cliton played the sole voice of reason with clever asides to the audience and yet, in the style of farce, sold every tall tale Dorante created with his expressive face and physical comedy. Scott Nagel, Daniel Doyle, and Warren Keyes foiled Dorante's intentional deception with their own foolish honesty as gentlemen Alcippe, Philiste, and Geronte, respectively. Rebecca Bossen and Maryanne Henderson played the fickle leading ladies Clarice and Lucrece, respectively, with confidence and poise alongside the dexterous Marilyn Gormon – double cast as the ladies' identical twin handmaidens; Isabella, a girlish flirt, and Sabine, a staunch matron.
Director Paul Frellick supported his well-versed cast with well-timed punch lines and nearly choreographed blocking. The precise and appropriately placed physicality aided the cast in landing the jokes without overkill. Likewise, the production's technical team completed the world of the play with effective designs. Miyuki Su's set was entirely efficient, transitioning from one locale to another with detailed dressings that perfectly, and humorously, informed the world of the farce. Costume designer LeGrande Smith dressed the cast from wigs to boots in elaborate and consistent designs, while Marc Maximov's perky French sound design provided the perfect atmosphere for the tongue-in-cheek aristocracy of The Liar.
There are circles of naysayers who often condemn actors as "liars," but any actor would say that acting at its root is truth. With a wink and a nod to the stage, David Ives explores some realm of middle ground with The Liar. Paul Frellick's cast was subtle and spot on with the farce, and amidst the lies and the truth, The Liar is one of the funniest shows in town.
The show continues through May 23. For details, see the sidebar.
Editor's Note: In the interest of full disclosure, CVNC's theatre editor Matthew Hager is in the cast, so the editor for this review is the former music editor. Blame him for any errors that may intrude here!