September 28, 2013

Theater Review: 'School For Lies' gives Moliere a devilishly fun twist

By APRIL BOYLE

If "society is nothing but a school for lies," then Mad Horse Theatre is a double-edged blade of wit that cuts through the artifice with sidesplitting precision.

THEATER REVIEW

“The School for Lies” at Mad Horse Theatre Company

WHERE: 24 Mosher St., South Portland

DATE REVIEWED: Saturday; continues through Oct. 13

TICKETS: $15/$20. Thursdays are pay what you can.

CONTACT: 730-2389; www.madhorse.com

"The School For Lies" is an adaptation of Moliere's  "The Misanthrope" written by David Ives. Ives maintains Moliere's barbed societal sarcasm, with a devilishly fun twist. The play is still set in 1666 France, but the language is modern-day English, delivered in iambic pentameter.

Although this twist isn't exactly a novel idea, Ives' writing stands out for being twofold smart and funny, with lines such as, "You'd trust a fecal-file to smell your roses?" 

The lines are multilayered, and there are plenty of subtle jokes and references. 

"Better to be a tart, than a tartuffe," quips Celimene (Janice Gardner), referencing both the French word for "hypocrite" and the title of another Moliere play.

On the surface, "The School For Lies" is downright silly. Foppish suitors Clitander (Evan Dalzell) and Acaste (Shawn Reardon) wear satin women's pumps, with oversized bows, and Philante (Nate Speckman) appears in the second act dressed like the fairy godmother from "Cinderella," complete with a star wand. 

The costumes are fantastic fun, and so is the cast wearing them. 

Burke Brimmer, as Frank, is the jerk everyone loves. He's quick-witted and, as his name implies, says what most of us only dream of saying. No one, or thing, is safe from his droll musings, whether he's poking fun at the "wart" on Oronte's (Chris Horton) nose, or feminizing Clitander by intentionally mispronouncing his name.

The fast-paced dialogue flows from his sharp tongue with ease, and an impish smile playfully peeks out from his copious facial hair. The combination is irresistible.

Gardner goes toe-to-toe with Brimmer in the battle of wits, and both are victorious.She is sassy and nimble-tongued as Frank's amour, Celimene. Her and Brimmer's double-entendre sparring is loads of fun, and keeps the audience on its mental toes.

There's plenty of chunky substance under the fluff in Ives' comedic fluffernutter, and Mad Horse Theatre gleefully spreads his message with a deliciously nutty cast of characters.

There's the backstabber, Arsinoe, played fiendishly by Kerry Ann Loomis. Clitander, Oronte and Acaste are the self-absorbed sycophants, too in love with themselves to have true depth of feeling for another. Philante and Eliante (Kat Moraros) appear sweet and stable, but are teeming with secrets. And Dubois, entertainingly played by Johnny Speckman, is a character most of us can identify with -- the guy pushed to his breaking point.        

Mad Horse Theatre revels in presenting productions that are open for interpretation. The nine cast members all clearly delight in helping the audience unearth the layers, and do so with an all-knowing wink that's hard to resist. 

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco.  She can be contacted at:

aprilhboyle@yahoo.com.

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