We all have lied at some point, we all have hopefully loved, but have you ever lied to capture love or advance in the world? Was it worth it? This is the inherent question of the classical French farce “The Liar,” which entertains audiences with principles and tendencies which ring true hundreds of years after it was written.
Toledo, it seems, has temporarily fallen for 17th century Paris. “The City of Love” plays host to the play’s main character, Dorante, in his attempts to impress two enticing women by spinning a web of lies, as Paris also provides the backdrop for “The Art of the Louvre’s Tuileries Garden” exhibit now at the Toledo Museum of Art.
Pierre Corneille, whom some consider the founder of French tragedy, surprised many of his contemporaries nearly 370 years ago with the comedic “The Liar.” It is one of the few comedies in his repertoire but still is considered one of the finest French comedies, preceding the works of Molière.
Contemporary playwright David Ives adapted this farce in 2010; it premiered that same year at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. Ives refers to his writing process as a “translaptation, i.e., a translation with a heavy dose of adaptation,” with a goal of modifying the play, including elements of the plot, into a piece that would satisfy modern audiences.
“The Liar” is a period piece, aesthetically and textually mirroring cultural standards of 17th century Paris. The performance’s elaborate costumes and flexible scenery attempt to reflect the period’s extravagance. The French form of Commedia dell’arte, a popular and somewhat eccentric style of comedy frequently used by playwrights such as Molière and Marivaux, is implemented in the actor’s physicality and pace.
Old meets new
“It’s sort of like the old meets the new,” said Barbara Barkan, the play’s director and a veteran local actress. “This play is a timeless high comedy about love and romance and lying and telling the truth—how that gets you into trouble and how things get misrepresented, misread and misunderstood.”
Written in verse with rhyming iambic pentameter, “The Liar” is fast paced, befitting for the Shakespeare buff but somewhat challenging for the actor. The play is cast with young actors, including Jon Masters, Evan James, Megan Guidry and Debbie Altman—all of whom are new to the Village Players stage. Masters, in his ninth play of his theatrical career, plays Dorante and is thoroughly excited to be in “such a fun play, working with great people.”
Barkan and her actors, however, experienced difficulties throughout the rehearsal process in finding the middle ground between poetic pentameter and natural conversation, despite the contemporary language provided by Ives.
“The tendency is to force the rhyme because that’s the way iambic pentameter is,” Barkan says. “But once we realized rehearsal after rehearsal, that they weren’t reciting poetry, but that they were communicating thoughts and ideas with each other, it suddenly became more conversational.”
“The Liar” is a fresh and exciting play in both content and casting, including actors who have yet to perform on The Village Players’ stage. It definitely is a production to see.
“The Liar” runs through March 22. The Village Players Theatre. Thursday through Saturday. 8 pm. $14-$16. 2740 Upton Ave. 419-472-6827. thevillageplayers.org