Solana Beach, CA--- Please don’t expect any more rhyming couplets from this writer/ since Ives’ “School for Lies” is best served by its original highlighter. From this reviewer you have only to read/What hilarious antics Ives has conceived. I know it’s wicked of me, but I just couldn’t help myself!
North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach is mounting David Ives’ deliciously funny twist on Molière’s “The Misanthrope”, that he has lovingly titled “The School for Lies”. It will be playing through March 23rd.
Any time one can leave the theatre with a smile and a light foot, is a good time to reflect back at the antics one has just seen on stage. Director Andrew Paul’s production of “School for Lies” is top notch and it all begins with a solid cast, a handsome set (Marty Burnett), outstanding period costumes (Alina Bokovikova) outlandish wigs (Peter Herman) and an over the top playwright willing to play with words and put them to rhyming couplets at any cost.
And what’s all the fuss? The object of our (the audiences) attention and for those in the play his affection is Frank (Richard Baird) a pessimistic malcontent whose cynical outlook on life has him declaring that life is nothing but a ‘school for lies’.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, however. He’s rude, inconsiderate, miserable, brutally honest and above all just plain bitchy. Last but not least he is a friend of the gentle Philinte who wants to introduce him around. That’s how he came to be at Celimene’s very popular salon. Even the beautiful folks there still get his critical sneering.
So why, much to Frank’s dismay, are all the ladies and gents (if you will) who frequent Celimene’s (Jessica John) salon falling head over heels for him? You tell me! The list reads like a Who’s Who of Moliere’s “The Misanthrope”.
Philinte (Joel Ripka) has a crush on Eliante (Brenda Dodge) who has a schoolgirl crush on Frank. Arsinoé (Dana Hooley) begging to get back at Celimene for some personal vendetta crushes Frank with her might and Celimene (Jessica John) is the ultimate crush, but that comes later. Could it be his penetrating eyes, his scrunched brow, his black duds? After all, everyone else is dressed in seventeenth century French best-outlandish waistcoats, petty coats and of course wigs and he, all in black, which by the way is pretty fitting for Baird’s character.
Others circling the inner circle include Clitander (David McBean), Oronte (Phil Johnson) and Acaste (Jason Heil). Twits to a letter are they, but so comical to watch. When we see one, the others aren’t far behind. They too have their sights on the beautiful Celimene but she is otherwise engaged with a lawsuit for slander with incriminating letters that were stolen from her that if exposed might ruin her. Such is the fate of the beautiful Celimente.
Meanwhile she was told that Frank is the bastard son of the King and can save her by using his influence and he believes she loves him but when the letters are revealed, all hell breaks lose between the two especially after he refers to her as a bitch: How I’ve itched to meet you. Here you stand now, waxing wroth. To my amazement, a man of the cloth! Oh, bless me father, I have sinned, and deeply. Do say a Mass for us but do it cheaply. You see I have this court case coming due. This time tomorrow I’ll not have a sou. Unless you’ve got some pull with You-Know Who.
The lineup of artists for this production is sterling starting with beautiful and sexy Jessica John. Her acid laced snarls at Baird’s Frank are just what the doctor ordered. Her tit matches his tat! (Well, you know what I mean). After she just sweeps him off his feet the two go at it as expected. One might conclude that they’ve been in this relationship before. It’s just a matter of time before things get ironed out, but what fun in the waiting.
Baird, for all his seriousness zero’s in on the stern Frank’s personality, but turn about is fair play when he gushes on to the set, slicked back hair and looking goofy and in love one can’t help but don a broad smile and know that he is finally with the program.
Joel Ripka is the perfect foil as Philinte. He knows no shame putting himself on the line making his emotions known to all and hoping for the best. On some level he’s more honest than our Frank and walks the fine line as wanting to be kind to all. In this maze of high strung personalities, this is no easy fete.
The dynamic trio of Heil, Johnson and McBean (Acaste, Oronte and Clitander) are a hoot to watch. If Heckle and Jeckle had a brother Peckle he would fit right in with this trio. Between the giant mole on Oronte’s nose (Oh, Phil) and Acaste’s simple absent minded smile and Clitander’s prancing about all vying for Celimene’s hand they are just plain fun to watch and par for the course.
It’s been too long since the delightful and energetic Dana Hooley has been seen on our local stages but here the role of Arsinoé is tailor made for her. As the revengeful and betraying friend she played her slithering magic on Frank who, yes, fell for it. Brenda Dodge is equally as ditzy for all her efforts to win Franks attention only to end up with her real love, Philinte.
Jonathan McMurtry plays dual roles as servant of two masters. (Actually we learn that he is a twin. Say it isn't so) In each case he wins the hearts of all. His big time caper is serving canapés to the guests only to have the tray upended each time he rolled out with the whatever’s were on that tray. Suffice it to say, they didn’t look that good anyway, so ending up on the floor mightn’t have been such a bad thing. It's a good laugh but over cooked.
All in all, “School for Lies” has so much going for it that if you miss it; you’ll miss a fun evening. Listening to Ives’s rhythms is half the fun and watching his characters make fools of themselves unabashedly is the other half. Because there is so much word play and sex riddled innuendo it might not be appropriates for all ages. Just saying!
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through March 23rd
Organization: North Coast Repertory Theatre
Production Type: Farce
Where: 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Ste. D, Solana Beach, CA 92075
Ticket Prices: $44.00-$48.00