The truth about “The Liar”

By Tim Klepp

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Full of mistaken identity, courtship and fantastic puns, director Michael Kahn’s adaptation of “The Liar” follows the main character Dorante (Christian Conn) as he captivates Paris’ high society with his elaborate lies.

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The production plays out the brash protagonist’s belief that “all the world’s a lie, and all the men and women merely liars.”  Cliton (Adam Green), Dorante’s servant that can’t tell a lie, introduces the scene when the curtains part.  After finishing law school, Dorante arrives in a wealthy neighborhood in Paris to seek love.  Removed from the action, Cliton reveals that Dorante is a pathological liar. Cliton marvels how the man will survive in Parisian high-society.

Conn perpetually captures Dorante’s absurd humor.  His whole demeanor, down to the macho goatee, captures his tales’ farce and the reactions of other characters to them.  And, what better a last name than Conn for an actor who plays a character that can’t tell the truth? Conn successfully portrays a liar, humorously introducing a sober façade over his character’s ridiculous tales of greatness.

“I feel the actors filled their roles very well,” senior Vera Carothers said.  “The witty conversations between Dorante and his servant are what made the play so fun to watch.”

Kahn’s “The Liar” is a remake of Pierre Corneille’s classic play of the same title.  True to his experience living in upper-class Paris during the seventeenth century, the stage is set with extravagant decorations, from balconies that adorn the high walls on either end to a bush trimmed to resemble a poodle.  The set alternates between the privacy of Clarice’s room, the scene of much gossip and elaborate pranks, to an outdoor garden open to prying eyes.  The objects in each of these settings allow characters to spy on others wrapped up in the web of Dorante’s lies.

Carefully designed, these objects add to playwright David Ives’ mockery of the lofty aristocracy.  Vibrant reds, blues, and greens adorn the surrounding surfaces.  The same can be said about the flamboyant costume design for the wealthier characters. While these two elements, costume and set design, certainly look nice and imply some amount of prestige, they also add a sort of cheapness to the environment, fitting the overall theme of the play: everything isn’t as it appears.

Ives applies this message to the play itself.  Referring to the play in the final monologue, Dorante speaks directly to the audience: “think how this was all a lie and yet the truth.”  Being that it is a play, the whole situation is fabricated from someone’s imagination, yet still captivates the audience as though it were reality.  “The Liar” sends a powerful message on the art of deception that is particularly relevant in modern society, a message that the set and Conn’s portrayal of Dorante enchances.

“I enjoyed how the play was written in Old English but referenced modern things,” senior Kathryn Isaacs said.

“The Liar” runs until May 30 at the Landsburgh Theatre in Washington, D.C.  Tickets for the two-hour production can be purchased at the Lansburgh Theatre box office or online.  A 50 percent discount for students is available up to one hour before curtains open.

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