“The Liar”

Westport Country Playhouse

“The Liar,” a comedy by David Ives, as adapted from a 1643 French farce by Pierre Corneille, is currently receiving a delicious production at the Westport Country Playhouse. This is truly a delectable soufflé of a show that keeps from ever falling thanks to terrific direction by Penny Metropulos and a very game company of actors. Be warned, however: “The Liar” is a play that is performed throughout in rhymed couplets.

This sort of thing would normally send me running for the hills, but, in the case of “The Liar,” it ends up working quite well and it is often a delight to hear what rhymes David Ives comes up with. With a splendid cast of eight, and beautiful set design by Kristen Robinson, “The Liar” is a great looking show that is lighter than air and presented in high style. Because of the rhymed couplets, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are able to go with it, “The Liar” proves to be a highly pleasurable evening of theatre.

When the audience enters the theatre, the curtain is up and one is treated to the bright and colorful set that ultimately becomes the perfect playground for this fanciful tale of romance, mistaken identity, and unexpected surprises. A farce like this needs a heightened level of performing and I am happy to report that all the actors in “The Liar” are pretty great.

In the title role of Durante, Aaron Krohn is a joy, reading the lines ideally and setting the precise tone for this kind of comedy. Plus, he looks wonderfully funny with his long blonde hair and period perfect costume (the ideal costume design is by Jessica Ford). As his companion Cliton, Rusty Ross proves to be an expert farceur and comedian. Also shining are Philippe Bowgen, as Durante’s amusing rival Alcippe, Brian Reddy as Durante’s marvelously befuddled father, and the wry Jay Russell as Philiste, Alcippe’s constant companion.

The three women in “The Liar” are just as good. The blonde and beautiful Kate MacCluggage is a lot of fun as Clarice and she delivers the dialogue with great relish and mirth. As her best friend Lucrece, the statuesque Monique Barbee is equally fine and brings a tart humor to the proceedings. In the duel role of the ladies’ maids Isabelle and Sabine, Rebekah Brockman is a real scream as she hilariously switches her demeanor from one character to the other. Of course, a great deal of credit for these performances must also go to director Penny Metrophulos, who has coaxed such excellent work from her cast and keeps “The Liar” moving at a merry pace from beginning to end.

It must be said that there isn’t a whole lot of plot in “The Liar,” but that rarely is a problem, because the play has been staged and acted with such richness and style. In this show, what matters most are the sumptuous setting (extremely well lit by lighting designer Matthew Richards), the expert timing of the marvelous company, and David Ives’ seemingly non-stop flow of amusing rhymed dialogue. As mentioned, this play is not for all tastes and, if I had one quibble with the production, it would be with the anachronistic use of contemporary music between scenes: this music sounds more appropriate for a Madonna concert than for a 1643 French farce and threatens to destroy the mood of the piece.

Still, this is a minor misstep that happily keeps from hampering the play. All in all, “The Liar” is consistently buoyant and often feels like a rich desert, whipped up perfectly by all the artists involved. So, even for those hesitant about the rhymed couplets, the Westport Country Playhouse production of “The Liar” is worth a look. Indeed, if you are willing to take the ride, I promise you that there are abundant pleasures to be found and savored throughout this stylish show.

“The Liar” continues performances at the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, CT through May 23, 2015. For tickets, please visit http://www.westportplayhouse.org or call the box office at (203) 227-4177.

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