Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park brings French farce to OKC 

click to enlarge The-Liar-OSP-Photo-Barry-Burris.jpg

A 17th-century French farce gets a modern upgrade from one of America’s most celebrated playwrights in the latest offering from Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park.

The Liar is a comedy written by Pierre Corneille and was first performed in 1644. In 2010, a new translation and adaption debuted by David Ives, author of the 2011 Broadway hit Venus in Fur and the man The New York Times called “the maestro of the short form.”

It premiered locally last week and runs through Sept. 3 at Oklahoma Shakespeare on Paseo, 2920 Paseo St.

The update has been praised for its wit and style as well as Ives’ command of the language and his comedic pacing. A comedy with as many moving parts as The Liar could become a muddled mess in the hands of a lesser playwright, but Ives has been commended for repackaging the 300-year-old classic into an audience-friendly affair.

Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park executive director Kathryn McGill said the company has waited to take a shot at The Liar since its debut.

“We have wanted to produce it for several years now,” McGill said. “It was commissioned years ago by the Shakespeare Theatre of Washington, D.C. to bring to life plays by great writers that are not done enough or that truly need a translation for revival in the 21st century. Corneille’s original play is tremendously funny and clever, but the adaptation by David Ives brings it into the 21st century in a very hilarious and vivid way.”

For those who thought Shakespeare in the Park only produced plays written by Shakespeare, McGill said the group’s mission is to reach audiences through works written by other masters, too.

“We are committed to cultivating the widest possible audience,” McGill said. “We’re committed to bringing to life classic plays that are relevant and language-based, so we do more than Shakespeare.”

As for The Liar, audiences should expect a fast-paced, slickly written period piece that might be easier for some to digest than one written by The Bard, at least as far as language goes.

The setting: Paris, 1643. Dorante is a silver-tongued charmer cursed with a single flaw: He cannot tell the truth, no matter the topic or audience. Naturally, he meets Cliton, the manservant who cannot tell a lie. Dorante also courts Clarice, whom he thinks is named Lucrece. In the meantime, Dorante’s father arrives and announces that he has found the woman his son should marry, who turns out to be Clarice.

However, Clarice is secretly engaged to some guy named Alceippe.

It is a French farce, after all, so the plot twists and folds over itself like an episode of Three’s Company set in the 17th century. The script has been praised for being well-written and flat-out funny.

“It’s extremely clever and modern, but true to the original,” McGill said. “In a way, it’s also a very touching play, but funny from beginning to end.”

Visit oklahomashakespeare.com for more information.

Print headline: Absurd comedy, Multiple love interests and deceptions highlight reinterpreted classic The Liar. 

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