REVIEW: THE LIAR at the Arvada Center
by Owen Niland
The Liar is a lot – the plot, performances, dialogue, staging, costumes, music, set, even the scene changes are all over the top. But, since this is 17 th century farce reinterpreted for a modern audience, a lot is what we should expect when we buy our ticket.
Under the unbridled direction of Geoffrey Kent, The Liar serves up the Arvada Center’s Black Box ensemble in a trippy techno-color 1960’s Paris, complete with French translations of instantly recognizable pop music of the era, and costumes that transport us to a fantasy swinging 60’s that probably never existed outside of the cinema of the era.
The plot is exhausting, but here we go (*DEEP BREATH*):
Arriving in Paris after finishing law school Dorante (Ryan George) poses as a war hero in order to impress Clarice (Noelia Antweiler), a woman he meets in the Jardin-des-Tuileries. Or is she Lucrece (Constance Swain)? Dorante sends his newly hired cash-strapped ervant, Cliton (Topher Embrey), to confer with Lucrece’s maid, the very affectionate Isabelle (Kristina Fountaine). Diplomatically, Isabelle distinguishes Clarice and Lucrece by insisting that the latter is the greater beauty. Flattering his taste, Dorante decides Lucrece must be the one he originally flirted with (it was Clarice). This mix-up is made even more urgent by the fact that his father, Geronte (Logan Ernstthal), has arranged for Dorante to marry Clarice. The son wriggles out of the father’s careful plans by unleashing a torrent of new lies.
Meanwhile, the real Clarice is secretly engaged to Dorante’s paranoid and volcanically angry friend, Alcippe (Sean Scrutchins). Oh, and Lucrece’s maid Isabelle has an identical, yet frigid, twin sister named Sabine (also Fountaine), who serves Clarice. Again though, this is farce, and we expect a knot of plot so confusing one simply gives in to the madness and straps in for the ride.
Truly the language of The Liar is the star of the show. Ives script, and the actors’ spit-fire delivery (under Voice and Text direction by Jeffrey Parker) make the audience lean in to the action, straining not to miss the cascading and inventive comic verse of rhymes thematically ranging from the classical to the decidedly contemporary. It’s all in the blender here, from Shakespeare and Moliere to
Monty Python and Weird Al. Kent’s deft handling of the staging and Grady Soapes’ free-ranging choreography keeps the action as heightened as the language – dance, duels, and even the stage scene changes all add to the smooth telling of a story which could get bogged down in less nimble hands. Even so, at a run time of 3+ hours, when in the mid-2nd act Durante breaks the spell of the lyric dialogue to speak in plain language, the change is a welcome respite to the ear.
Arvada’s technical staff seamlessly transports us into this Parisian fantasy. Kevin Copenhaver’s costume designs are a marvel to behold, while the sound and lighting design by Jason Ducat and Shannon McKinney, respectively, make us feel like patrons at the most chic discotheque of the day. Brian Mallgrave’s scenic design is a delight as well, complete with a fountain that punctuates some of
the script’s bawdiest jokes.
The Liar is stuffed with good things like a decadently rich French meal – it’s not something you’d want every day, but when you’re craving something over-the-top this one will satisfy you.