Lisa Jensen Online, Posted on August 17, 2015
By Lisa Jensen
If you’re one of those slightly benighted folks who think Santa Cruz Shakespeare would be so much fun, except for, you know, all that Shakespeare, then the current SCS production of The Liar is for you.
On the other hand, if you can’t get enough of Shakespearean-style wit and wordplay, then The Liar is for you. In fact, if you’re breathing, The Liar is for you.
Yes, it’s a play you’ve never heard of, based on a French farce from (eek) 1643. Yes, the entire play is in verse. But this outrageously clever 2010 update by American playwright David Ives uses modern idioms and vernacular throughout (references to Twitter, etc.), to make sure that everyone gets all the jokes.
The farcical plot revolves around Dorante (Brian Smolin), a young man from the provinces on his first day in Paris who’s quick to embroider the truth for the sake of expedience. He has no malicious intent; rather, say, he can’t be bothered with the boring (or inconvenient) truth when a good lie, ingeniously crafted on the spot, is so much more satisfying.
Or, as Dorante puts it, in one of Ives’ slyest lines, “the unimagined life is not worth living!”
In short order, Dorante hires a manservant, Cliton (Toby Onwumere), unable to speak anything but the truth, falls instantly in love with one of two ladies (but mixes up their names), weasels out of a marriage plot arranged by his father, and fights a hilarious duel of words (which he narrates like an ESPN play-by-play), swords undrawn.
Did I mention the twin serving wenches (one lusty, one pious)? As soon as Dorante boasts to Cliton about his “Memory—keystone of the master liar!” you know he’s heading for trouble.
A show that depends so completely on verbal dexterity needs an adroit cast, and SCS has put together an exceptional one. …
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.