There was only one flaw in Henley Street’s “The Liar” that I scampered downtown to see in the midst of Sunday’s drippy afternoon. And that was when David Clark’s Cliton, as part of his not being able to tell a lie, classified the more overtly sensual of the maidservant twins, Isabelle, as an 8. Mr. Ricks made a major casting mistake in selecting Stacie Reardon Hall for this part. Even when trying to button up her loveliness in the guise of the more persnickety Sabine, Mrs. Hall easily surpasses an 8 on any objective scale.
Except for that one misstep, ‘The Liar’ was everything the rave reviews of the production had promised, and more. A show recited almost entirely in rhyming couplets was never tiresome and used the very artifice of that construct to great comic ends. Given the penchant for mistaken identity plotlines to stretch the bounds of common sense, this one was actually relatively believable (in the scope of such things), hinging as it did on one simple assumption and goosed into madness by the title character’s well-established compulsion to never settle for a simple fib when an outrageous lie was possible.
The performances were uniformly excellent. I pretty much expected great things from the leads: I became a devoted Matthew Mitchell fan with “Kimberly Akimbo,” I thought David Clark was phenomenal in last season’s “Judas Iscariot,” and I was introduced to rising star Irene Kuykendall with Sycamore Rouge’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.” But what a treat when later in the play an otherwise low-key Tyler Weaver steps a bit more forward as Philliste and matches the skills of the topliners. The show was also my introduction to Olivia Luna who played Lucrece with attractive wit and grace early and with mounting outrage later on.
The wordplay and quippiness of the script were consistently delightful, enhanced by performers like Mitchell who used body language – some subtle, lots not so subtle – to punch up the jokes. The humor ran the gamut from salacious double entendres to insidery theater jokes to scatological barbs to crazy circular ramblings to groan-worthy stretching of rhymes (“my-valve”?) to some gags that almost bordered on sophistication.
Henley Street did a great service to the script with its staging at CenterStage. Margarette Joyner’s costumes were sumptuous, Seamus Bourne’s set was appropriately stately, and Andrew Bonniwell’s lights were nicely done, particularly as they subtly shifted in intensity during certain key scenes. Mr. Ricks’ attention to detail is impressive; as John Porter also mentioned, I loved hearing songs like Bowie’s “Changes” interpreted by string quartet during intermission.
Given all of that, the one moment that stretched my suspension of disbelief was easily forgotten. There are only 2 more chances to see this great production so I’d strongly suggest making room for it in the coming weekend. In fact, a double-header of “Always...Patsy Cline” and “The Liar” would be a great way to celebrate the closing weekend for both productions.