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Roman Pearah and Matthew Hager Are Hilarious as the Title Character and His Mark in “The Liar”

Matthew Hager (left) and Roman Pearah star as Cliton and Dorante (photo by Jonathan Young)

Matthew Hager (left) and Roman Pearah star as Cliton and Dorante (photo by Jonathan Young)

Deep Dish Theater Company’s current presentation of The Liar, adapted by David Ives from the 1644 comedy Le Menteur by 17th century French playwright Pierre Corneille (1606-84), is — in turn — based on La verdad sospechosa (1634) by Spanish dramatist Juan Ruiz de Alarcón (c. 1580-1639). A comic masterpiece that was not acceptable by the governmental leadership of the state-run French theater system, The Liar was seldom performed at the time.

David Ives created what he called a “translaptation” of the piece in 2010 for Washington, DC’s Shakespeare Theatre Company. It is a farce, written in rhyming couplets, and Ives often has the audience looking excitedly for the anticipated clever rhyme. Bawdy humor from the 17th Century is coaxed into play with softened (but not flaccid) raunch from contemporary argot.

A French dandy named Dorante, who makes his way in the world with Munchausen-like tales of his exploits and derring do takes up with a hired man-servant who cannot utter a falsehood. As the plot develops it becomes a bit of a treatise on the efficacy and practice of lying, posing the question: does anyone never lie?

Deep Dish set designer Miyuki Su opens the show with an elegant set of an area of the Tuileries, with pedestalled busts and interesting topiary and marbled walkways, which transforms into various bedrooms and other sets with amazing ease and facility, enhanced by Liz Grimes Droessler’s apt lighting design.

The magnificent costumes of LeGrande Smith lend authenticity to the period. The gentlemen’s wigs, which are not credited in the program, are outstanding also. Fight choreographer David McClutchey has designed an hilarious duel between Dorante and Alcippe, Dorante’s friend and rival.

Overall direction by Deep Dish Theater Company artistic director Paul Frellick is quick paced, tight, and glows with theatrical sparkle. Frellick chose all the right actors for this show; and his performers look and feel their parts, and come across with reality despite the ridiculous situations that they are involved with. Half the fun of the show is that the characters all take themselves so seriously.

Roman Pearah and Matthew Hager as Dorante and Cliton are wonderfully suited to each other. Cliton’s innocent honesty is captured in Hager’s light-touch comedic style, and his posturings and gesticulations are fresh and delightful.

Pearah’s ability to launch into preposterous lies at the drop of a hat is remarkable, and makes Dorante utterly real. His father, Geronte, as played by Warren Keyes, is loving, conniving, and ambitious, with truly endearing qualities.

Rebecca Bossen (left) and Maryanne Henderson play Clarice and Lucrece (photo by Jonathan Young)

Rebecca Bossen (left) and Maryanne Henderson play Clarice and Lucrece (photo by Jonathan Young)

Marilyn Gormon does a marvelous job in the dual roles of Isabelle and Sabine, presenting two very different personalities. And Rebecca Bossen and Maryanne Henderson play Clarice and Lucrece, the two love interests, with regal poise and upper crust demeanors.

Alcippe is given a hearty volatility by Scott Nagel, whose stalking gait embellishes his potential ferocity. Daniel Doyle brings a nice élan to the role of Philliste, Alcippe’s second-in-arms.

Deep Dish Theater Company has been producing excellent entertainment for 15 years now, and this show easily measures up to the high standard.

SECOND OPINION: May 7th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article20455434.html; May 6th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/the-liar/Event?oid=4374062; and May 3rd Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Spencer Powell: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=7417.

Deep Dish Theater Company presents THE LIAR at 2 p.m. May 10, 7:30 p.m. May 13 and 14, 8 p.m. May 15 and 16, 2 p.m. May 17, 7:30 p.m. May 20 and 21, and 8 p.m. May 22 and 23 in Deep Dish’s performance space at 201 S. Estes Dr., Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514, between The Print Shop and the Public Library in University Mall.

TICKETS: $25 ($21 students and $23 seniors and educators), with a $2 discount for Wednesday and Thursday shows.

BOX OFFICE: 919-968-1515 or https://www.vendini.com/.

SHOW: http://www.deepdishtheater.org/productions?p=69 and https://www.facebook.com/events/914681878595187/.

2014-15 SEASON: http://www.deepdishtheater.org/productions.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.deepdishtheater.org/, https://www.facebook.com/deepdishtheater, and https://twitter.com/deepdishtheater.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://www.deepdishtheater.org/location.

NOTE 1: There will be a post-performance “Meet-the-Designers” discussion with the production staff on Thursday, May 14th, and a post-performance discussion on Sunday, May 17th, with the cast and professor Douglas MacLean of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Philosophy.

NOTE 2: The Deep Dish Book Selection, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish: A Novel by David Rakoff, will be discussed at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 19th, at the Chapel Hill Public Library, 100 Library Dr., Chapel Hill, NC 27514.

NOTE 3: A limited number of tickets will be sold at the door for $14 each, first come, first served, on “Cheap Dish Night,” on Wednesday, May 20th.

OTHER LINKS:

The Liar (2010 comedy): http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=4268 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.).

Script: https://books.google.com/ (Google Books).

Study Guide: http://www.shakespearetheatre.org/_pdf/first_folio/the_liar.pdf (Shakespeare Theatre Company).

David Ives (Chicago-born playwright): http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=9621 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Ives (Wikipedia).

Paul Frellick (Chapel Hill, NC director): https://www.facebook.com/paul.frellick (Facebook page) and https://twitter.com/paulfrellick (Twitter page).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews