Review: 'The Liar' offers great, gaudy fun at Theatre Conspiracy

Theatre Conspiracy

10091 McGregor Boulevard, Fort Myers, FL

What: Parisian man who cannot tell the truth courts a beauty

When: 8 p.m. March 21, 22, 23, 28, 29 and 30; one 2 p.m. matinée on March 24

Where: Foulds Theater at the Lee County Alliance of the Arts complex, 10091 McGregor Boulevard, Fort Myers

Cost: $20; $10 for students

Information: 239-936-3239 or theatreconspiracy.org

On the Web: Sign up to receive more theater news from the Stage Door blog via email.

Bill Taylor popped "The Liar" into his "classics" spot when he announced the 2012-13 schedule. It sits there, occupying the plum mid-spring slot on Theatre Conspiracy's schedule previously held by "Medea" and "School for Wives."

Daniel Benzing was cast as Dorante. Brittany Albury was going to be back, again wearing frilly period clothes. The married Hales were going act on stage together. All signs pointed to funny. All signs were right.

"The Liar" is here. "The Liar" is delightful. That's not a lie. I promise.

Bill Taylor crafts a rambling, funny, often goofy show that is probably meant to feel just as giddily hilarious, hands-in-the-air, screaming off the rails as it is. A catalog-ready cast of pretty twenty-somethings in ferociously blinged-out costumes knocks off the verse with fierce cuteness. When they click, it is going to be awesome. (Side note: Somebody, somewhere needs to do a straight-up hipster take on this show, with cellphones, coffee cups and scarves.)

This gaudy bauble sweeps on stage in a puff of lace, a swish of silk and a sproinng of beribboned curl. "The Liar" is a good, honest mess fashioned from a tumble of falsehoods and a swirl of silliness. The show delivers on every promise and has at least another gear or three within it; they know it too. The talented amateurs and sometimes semi-professionals in the cast clearly love their frothy, fanciful creation; it gets better with every passing minute of every show.

David Ives adapted "The Liar" from a 1644 play by Frenchman Pierre Corneille. In "The Liar," Dorante tries to impress two Parisian women, Clarice and Lucrece. He decides to court Clarice, but gets the names mixed up. Lies follow lies. Dorante lies of everything, from of a wild river flotilla with blindfold virgins serving pomegranates from alabaster plates to a pregnant gypsy bride.

Daniel Benzing should act more. He serves up boyish, bearded troublemaker Dorante as if he played the role in real life. Gleeful eyes sparkle as he glibly invents German armies, gypsy fathers, invisible virgins and more. Watching Benzing, usually so serious, swoon for love as Dorante mangles a moonlight conversation with a masked admirer brings enormous laughs. I wish he had another week's rehearsal in order to perfect delivery of the pentameter.

Scene-stealer Taylor Murphy Hale shines as deceived, bedeviled and much-too-truthful Cliton, the one character who cannot tell a lie. And, sadly, the only one without at least a hint of finery. Poor Cliton; and it is pronounced "Cly-tuhn."

Taylor Hale makes the honest man a comic creation under a black mop of a wig and rosy cheeks. Endless items appear and re-appear out of Cliton's bottomless pants (seriously, we're talking Mary Poppins bag here). The rhymes emerge razor-sharp and with plenty energy; this is fun for him. His real-life wife Alexandra plays terribly twisted twin servants Isabel and Sabine. Both cause mischief. Both are wonderful. You will love Sabine more.

Albury returns from last year's "School for Wives." The male-centered comedy never really develops either her Clarice or Tera Nicole Miller's pouty Lucrece. Such a shame too, as they bring an arch, gossipy silliness to the roles. And, of all things, mirror-image beauty spots. Any scene with the pair delights, as when Miller repeatedly grunts as Dorante flirts with Clarice. I wish Bill Taylor would nudge them up a bit, toward Marie Antoinette, peacock feather-waving, birdcage-in-the-hair mannerisms to bring even more of a biting edge.

Scott Thomson brings delightful flair (and a walking stick) as proud papa Geronte. His frantic, squawking breakdowns about being lied to bring big laughs. Bernard Gomez (Philiste) and David Monagas (Alcippe) play other suitors.

Owing to Alliance schedules that preclude a complicated set, Taylor picks a vivid fabric pattern, papering a rear panel from floor to ceiling. The abstract pattern adds height and suggests 17th century France in as perfect a way as anything else would. Lightweight topiary and shrubbery made of boxes create the appearance of elegant boulevards. Add wigs with acres of curls, petticoats, soft dresses in shades of palest red, miles of gold braid and voila, Paris in springtime.

The show right now is very good. It has the potential to be crying, rolling-in-the-aisles hilarious. Watching Benzing swan around in his gold costume and a Michael Bolton wig telling the most outrageous lies is just delightful. He's just got this ear-to-ear grin, selling these shameful lies as if he owned them. Don't miss this delightful, smartly cast, wonderfully delivered comic gem.

"Well, well. Some juicy gossip? What's the twitter?" Email me, csilk@naplesnews.com, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.

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