Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Review: The School for Lies at CSC

You don't expect characters in a play taking place in 1666 France to use words like "dude" and "LOL" while speaking in highly-entertaining verse, but they do in The School For Lies, David Ives's adaptation of Moliere's The Misanthrope. These kinds of anachronisms can come off as annoying, as if the playwright is trying too hard, but here the rhymes are so clever that they work.

Aside from language choices, Ives takes some liberties with Moliere's story, but the basic gist is the same. Frank (Hamish Linklater), renamed from Alceste, abhors the hypocrisy of society and likes to speak his mind. He falls in love with Celimene (Mamie Gummer) despite her habit of ridiculing her friends behind their backs. Director Walter Bobbie is a frequent collaborator of Ives and they clearly understand each other such that the show runs effortlessly. So much of the pleasure of the show comes from the language and it takes a skilled cast to speak intelligibly while not slowing down the pace and the ensemble is up to the challenge, but Linklater is clearly the star, delivering each line to comic perfection. The School For Lies is a visual treat as well, thanks to William Ivey Long's brightly colored costumes which fit in with the fun nature of the show.

It appears that nobody told Ives about the rule of three, and a running joke involving flying canapes starts to wear out its welcome (for me anyway, the audience never seemed to tire of it). Still, during this time of year when everyone is rushing to see Broadway shows before the Tonys, there are some gems that you can only find off-Broadway.

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

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