Theater department takes on light-hearted fare ‘The Liar'

by Varun Bhuchar | 2/13/13 11:00pm

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Courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor
by Gavin Huang / The Dartmouth

"The Liar," adapted by Ives from the classic French comedy by Pierre Corneille, focuses on the exploits of Dorante, a charming and handsome man who has the unfortunate propensity to make outrageous falsehoods. One day, he meets two beautiful women named Clarice and Lucrece and takes a fancy to Clarice. Unfortunately for him, he thinks that Clarice's name is Lucrece.

Hilarious confusion ensues when he returns home, he finds out that his father plans to have him wed to Clarice, which leads Dorante to fashion a series of outrageous lies in order to avoid marrying who he thinks to be the wrong woman.

While "The Liar" was selected by the theater department, director and theater professor Jamie Horton said he knew he wanted to put on a piece that would counter the fall's production of "Angels in America," known for its darker themes of life, love, death and identity.

"It was a very weighty, very marvelous play," Horton said of "Angels." "I knew it would be wonderful to find a comedy to do and when I found [The Liar,'] which was written a few years ago, I knew that this is what we were going to be doing."

In addition to being a light-hearted farce, "The Liar" boasts an unusual structure; the dialogue is written and performed entirely in rhyming couplets. Horton, who is also an actor, understands that such an unusual condition presents a difficult test when being performed on stage.

"It's a heightened language and you have to understand and have a very deft touch in how to use the rhyme while at the same time not letting the rhyme get in the way of your natural thought process while you are performing," Horton said.

Although the production is an adaptation of an older French play, Ives did a magnificent job of making the dialogue sound contemporary, which is helpful for both actors and audience members alike, Horton said.

Max Samuels '15, who plays Dorante's butler, Cliton, said that the rhyming verses allowed him to memorize his lines better, but are still difficult to deliver naturally.

"My first lines in the play are Ladies and gentlemen, madames and monsieurs, all cell phones off, all cellophanes secure' and I could always link monsieurs' with secure' and that is continuous throughout the play," Samuels said. "But it's also a real challenge to sound like we're just talking and this stuff just happens to rhyme which is hard because it doesn't sound natural."

"The Liar" allowed Josh Feder '08 to return to Dartmouth in to do what he loves most: choreograph.

After he graduated from the College, Feder, who serves as the play's assistant director, moved to New York for several years and worked in various theater companies in the city.

For the last few summers, Feder has been working at the New London Barn Playhouse, where theater professor Carol Dunne leads as artistic director. The playhouse employs many Dartmouth alumni and it was there that Feder started making connections that would eventually bring him back to Dartmouth.

"For this winter, I was looking at a few different projects that had come onto my radar," Feder said. I saw that [The Liar'] was going to be produced and I was also in negotiations to choreograph Anything Goes' for the North County Community Theater in Lebanon. So the thought of coming back up to Hanover was very exciting for me."

In addition to helping direct the play, Feder also choreographed the a capella scene transitions. Coming back to the College gave Feder the chance to work with Horton, one of his former professors.

The working relationship between the two exhibits itself well in the play, Horton said.

"It's been really a fortuitous thing because the decisions we made in regard to what went into the play and its scenic transitions plays directly to Josh's strengths," Horton said. "His contributions have been really significant."

"The Liar" premieres Friday at 8 p.m. at the Moore Theater in the Hopkins Center.