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A CurtainUp Review
The Liar

It's for you and you alone I swoon —Dorante
You said you'd rather wed a dead baboon —Clarice
Forget the ape! My feelings are profounder,
If I can‘t marry you, I'd rather wed a flounder
Left to Right: Michael Borrelli, Gabra Zackman, Jason O'Connell
(Photo credit: William Marsh)
Unless you were lucky enough to have been raised in an intellectual environment, your first experience with "poetry" was probably a giggling encounter with a schoolyard limerick. The easy rhyme, the comic payoff, and after that, a ritual high school exploration of heavy works that seemed to be as much about weight as wit. Consequently, we come ill prepared for verse in theater.

Quick. Name three theater works entirely in verse. Two? One? Well, there you have it. Though theater is the end result of words used skillfully, for some reason plays in verse are an oddity.

Here to correct that lack is David Ives' giddy adaptation of Pierre Corneille's 1643 comedy, The Liar,"at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in Garrison, New York. A frantic comedy in the style of the classic French farce, The Liar is written entirely in verse, mostly couplets in iambic pentameter, but all with the same bouncing rhytmn.

The plot is unadulterated farce sweetened with line after line of amusing combinations and juxtapositions of language. As the supreme wordsmith of theatre, Shakespeare once wrote, "what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive."

Dorante (Jason O'Connell) and his servant Cliton (Michael Borrelli) are an odd pair at best. Dorante seems compelled to tell nothing but lies, while Cliton can only tell the truth.

In the gardens of Les Tuilleries in Paris, they encounter two beautiful women, Claire (Gabra Zackman) and Lucrece (Katie Hartke). Dorante, smitten with Claire, sets about wooing her using Cliton as a go-between. The women craftily switch names so that Dorante ends up believing he is in love with Lucrece rather than Claire. That fact that Dorante's father, Geronte (Stephen Paul Johnson) has arranged a marriage for his son with Claire tangles the web even more. And lurking, undulating is perhaps the better term, is Claire's anxious lover Alcippe (Max Hunter).

Things proceed in the predictable, disorganized way of farce layering circumstance upon circumstance until there seems to be no way for a resolution. But there is, and it falls into place like a Rube Goldberg invention.

The cast is excellent, anchored by veteran festival performers, Borrelli and Johnson and directed with brio by Russell Treyz. The lion's share of the comedy rests upon the steady shoulders of Jason O'Connell as the liar. He is convulsively funny and as inventive as his character, making the most outrageous presumptions seem quite logical.

Zackman and Hartke are excellent as the sweet and sour objects of the men's affections and the rest of the ensemble including the sexually nimble Hunter and Maggie McDowell in dual good girl/bad girl roles are super.

Costumes by Charlotte Palmer-Lane are as colorfully unique as the characters that wear them.

Things bear on a mite too long, especially since the unique use of verse, so intriguing and amusing at first, eventually becomes as sing/song as its speech pattern. Nevertheless, a lively, witty entertainment that will please everyone especially those who try to guess the ending of a particularly complex couplet.

The Liar by David Ives, adapted from a work by Pierre Corneille
Directed by Russell Treyz
Cast: Michael Borrelli (Cliton), Jason O'Connell (Dorante), Gabra Zackman (Clarice), Katie Hartke (Lucrece), Max Hunter (Alcippe), Maggie McDowell (Isabelle, Sabine ), Jack Lafferty (Philiste), Stephen Paul Johnson (Geronte)
Costumes: Charlotte Palmer-Lane
Lighting design: David Upton
Sound design: William Neal
Props design: Ken Goldstein
Stage manager: Patrick Egan
Through August 31, in repertory with Two Gentlemen of Verona and Othello.
Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival Boscobel House and Gardens Rte. 9D, South, Garrison, New York
Performances are Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Check box office for exact schedule.
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes including one 15-minute intermission.
Grounds open two hours before performances for picnicking.
Tickets range from $22.40 to $69.50.
Discounts are available for students, seniors (65+) and groups. There is a 25% discount for purchasing seats for all three plays for weeknight performances.
For more information, contact the box office at 845-265-9585, or online at
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