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Review: 'The Liar' great fun at Centenary Stage Company

The Liar
Bob Eberle

David Ives’ clever adaptation of the classic French farce "The Liar" opened at Centenary Stage Company this past weekend. This production, set in 1643 Paris, is stylishly directed by the CSC's artistic director, Carl Wallnau with a marvelous cast of mostly Equity pros led by Brian Sheppard.

"The Liar" is pure zany fun starting with the opening remarks to the audience by actor Tom Morin. Morin, seen last season as the cripple in the "Cripple of Inishmaan," has a fine comedy turn as the enterprising servant for hire Cliton, the lead jester of the play. Cliton has one slight flaw ...he can not tell a lie! This affliction is particularly unsatisfactory since his new employer, the handsome and charming Dorante (played with great style by Brian Sheppard), who has arrived in Paris seeking a suitable bride, is incapable of telling the truth. Dorante believes the best and quickest route to his marital goal is to fabricate outlandish tales of conquest both in the boudoir and on the battlefield.

The plot: Dorante, on his very first day in Paris, meets two beautiful young women, who are not only close friends, but live on the same exclusive street and each has a servant. Here is where the fun and resulting confusion starts and ends. The two servants, Isabella and Sabine are twin sisters (played nicely by Morgan Mack, a recent Centenary grad making her Equity debut) Sabine serves the charming Clarice (Dana Gartland) and Isabella serves Clarice's best friend, the quiet, but attractive Lucrece (Erica Knight). Dorante falls in love with... Clarice, whom he unfortunately mistakes for her friend Lucrece. He spends most of the two-hour hilarious adventure pursuing her via every means possible including a dark midnight rendezvous and a passionate note.

Rounding out the fine cast is Phil E. Eichinger as Alcippe, Clarice's secret and very jealous fiancé. One of the comedy high points is a sword less duel between Dorante and Alcippe. Playing Dorante's aristocratic father, who is also in Paris to arrange a marriage for his master liar of a son, is the very impressive Alan Coates. Lastly, Christopher J. Young has the supporting role of Philiste, Alcippe's friend.

What takes this play to a special level, adding greatly to the enjoyment, is that the entire play is delivered in clever, very amusing modern rhyming verse.

Director Carl Wallnau's' production team includes the award winning television and stage set designer Bob Phillips, who has designed an outstanding single set with a Parisian backdrop, that works for all scenes via the simple placement of potted plants, a bench and curtains. The prop movements are cleverly choreographed by Lea Antolini-Lid. The colorful, nicely detailed period costumes are the work of costume designer Julia Sharp; the lighting designer is Ed Matthews; the fight coordinator is Stephen Davis; and the sound designer is Kyle Dylan Conner. Danielle Constance serves as stage manager.

"The Liar" is a fun romantic event that, of course, has a happy ending (with a nice twist). How the tale is resolved, naturally, requires a visit to the Centenary Stage Company. If you are looking for a bright break from the dreary days of winter, look no further, this is a wonderful joyous example of the magic that is live theatre. Laughs are guaranteed.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio February 23, 2014

"The Liar" performance times are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. There are 2 p.m. matinées on Wednesdays February 26th and March 5th. Tickets range from $25 to $27.50 with discounts for students and seniors. Every Thursday night is “Family Night,” which offers a 2-for-1 rush ticket price when purchased at the door.

Tickets may be purchased online at www.centenarystageco.org, at the CSC Box Office located in the David and Carol Lackland Center at 715 Grand Ave in Hackettstown, or by calling 908-979-0900. The Box Office is open 1-5 PM Monday through Friday, and 2 hours prior to performance times. CSC also operates a second Box Office during the season at 217 Main Street in Hackettstown open Monday through Friday 3-6 p.m.