REVIEW: THE LIAR a Comic Hit, Santa Cruz Sentinel

Santa Cruz Sentinel, Posted on 

Santa Cruz Shakespeare has a comic hit on its hands with The Liar

By Joanne Engelhardt

Kurt Meeker (left) and Brian Smolin star in Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s witty comedy The Liar. Photo: Shmuel Thaler.

Kurt Meeker (left) and Brian Smolin star in Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s witty comedy The Liar. Photo: Shmuel Thaler.

Hark! Is that laughter coming from the Glen?

Yeah, verily – it’s hearty laughter again … and then again!

Theatergoers who have already seen Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s second play of the 2015 season, “The Liar,” will likely recognize that little piece of doggerel as a meager attempt at pentameter verse.

But the real deal is what you’ll hear on stage at UC Santa Cruz’s Sinsheimer-Stanley Festival Glen now that American playwright David Ives’ rollicking version of 17th-century French playwright Pierre Corneille’s obscure play of the same name has been tamed by director Art Manke and a delightfully comic cast of actors. What’s remarkable is how Ives took a relatively obscure little comedy and, in 2010, gave it a wickedly witty twist that mimics Corneille’s original French dialogue but is written instead in rhyming couplets. The result is nearly constant side-splitting comedy.

To go with this ribald humor, Ives adds a number of farcical flourishes, and Manke capitalizes on all of them. Want to hear tall tales of lust, assignations and busty maidens? That’s the specialty of debonair bachelor Dorante (a riveting Brian Smolin), a compulsive liar if there ever was one, who has just left law school to travel to Paris in search of … fame? Fortune? Debauchery? Most likely all three.

Smolin, dressed in shades of green – with black lace – and sporting generous red rouge dots on his cheeks, is nothing short of phenomenal. He has the ability to throw off those couplets with rapier speed, all the while smiling innocently and parading about like a dandy. The rest of the cast almost matches Smolin’s resourcefulness, in particular his new manservant, Cliton (charmingly over-reacting Toby Onwumere), the beauteous Clarice (a spirited Mary Cavett) and the hard-working Melinda Parrett, who plays twins – one lusty, the other, stern – and often must hustle off one side of the stage to enter on the other side in the space of about 10 seconds. . . .

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Tickets on sale now for the 2015 season, which features three outdoor productions, starting with the wickedly romantic Shakespeare comedy Much Ado About Nothing, opening July 3; followed by David Ives’s modern adaptation of the wickedly hilarious 17th century farce, The Liar, opening July 24; and Shakespeare’s wicked tragedy, Macbeth, opening August 7. Plus, SCS continues the tradition of its intern-showcasing Fringe production with four performances of the wickedly festive comedy The Rover, starting August 18.

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