The Liar

Austin Playhouse's colorful production gives heightened dimension to an already heightened farce

Would I lie to you honey?: (l-r) Hildreth England, Benjamin Summers, and Lara Toner
Would I lie to you honey?: (l-r) Hildreth England, Benjamin Summers, and Lara Toner (Photo courtesy of Christopher Loveless)

The Liar

Austin Playhouse at Highland Mall, 6001 Airport, 512/476-0084
www.austinplayhouse.com
Through March 9
Running Time: 2 hr., 15 min.

Maybe George Washington couldn't tell a lie, but if the production of David Ives' The Liar currently strutting its stuff at Highland Mall is any indication, Austin Playhouse sure can.

Okay, that didn't sound quite right. Backing up a bit: Ives didn't actually write The Liar – at least originally; in fact, it was written more than 350 years ago, long before our first president and that, ahem, cherry tree incident. But Ives, who is perhaps best known for his witty wordplay in works such as All in the Timing and Venus in Fur, was in many ways the ideal contemporary playwright to adapt Pierre Corneille's script about a compulsive – and proud – spinner of deceit. In terms of style, think Shakespearean comedy: Mistaken identities form the central plot, farcical flouncing abounds, and visual antics keep the action moving along at a quick pace.

But if you're not into all those "thees" and "thous," feare (ye) not: Ives' adaptation is fresh and up to date, smartly intermingling today's parlance with some of those Elizabethanisms that will ring familiare to the eare. The text even goes so far as to include some naughty (modern) language, meaning that what might otherwise be a family-friendly show with an enjoyment factor for even younger audience members is probably best suited to a teenage-and-older constituency.

As the title character, Benjamin Summers is hardly recognizable from the kinds of roles I've seen him play. He makes a total transformation into the over-the-top, brightly-clad deceiver Dorante, accompanied by loyal servant Cliton (the hilarious J. Ben Wolfe). As Clarice and Lucrece (mistaken in identity), Hildreth England and Lara Toner, respectively, are as affably cartoony as Summers, Wolfe, and their fellow castmates. Of special note is Claire Grasso, who plays night-and-day twins (Shakespeare, anyone?) Isabelle and Sabine with especially comedic flair.

The physical world of Ives' play is set in bright colors by the Playhouse, with design power team Patrick and Holly Crowley providing a highly illustrated set that's matched in Buffy Manners' excellent costumes. Lighting designer Don Day illuminates these colorful goings-on with ample amperage. Director Don Toner has done a fine job with this production, uniting its elements thematically in such a way that gives heightened dimension to an already heightened farce.

I highly recommend that you gather a cadre of groundlings and head to Austin Playhouse for a rousing good time. You won't be disappointed – and I ain't lyin'.

READ MORE
More The Liar
Top 10 Theatre Duos & Trios of 2014
Top 10 Theatre Duos & Trios of 2014
Remembering a year in theatre in which performers distinguished themselves in twos and threes

Adam Roberts, Jan. 2, 2015

More Austin theatre
Examining the Sins and Virtues of Hypermasculine Theatre
Examining the Sins and Virtues of Hypermasculine Theatre
When is violence in theatre too much?

Shanon Weaver, Dec. 9, 2016

Making Room to Play
Making Room to Play
Create Space Austin kicks off the drive to secure more performing venues in the city

Elizabeth Cobbe, April 15, 2016

More Arts Reviews
Trinity Street Players’ <i>Dani Girl</i>
Trinity Street Players’ Dani Girl
This musical may be about a child with cancer, but seeing it is a funny, moving, and healing experience

T. Lynn Mikeska, May 26, 2017

<i>Butcher Holler Here We Come</i>
Butcher Holler Here We Come
This stylized look at West Virginia miners trapped underground is more of a powerful sensory experience than a narrative drama

Elizabeth Cobbe, May 26, 2017

More by Adam Roberts
<i>When the Rain Stops Falling</i>
When the Rain Stops Falling
Strong writing and a robust cast make Different Stages' production stay with you

July 10, 2015

<i>The Sorcerer</i>
The Sorcerer
The Gilbert & Sullivan Society's latest show may be lesser known, but it still prompts plenty of smiles

June 26, 2015

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

The Liar, Austin theatre, Austin Playhouse, Don Toner, David Ives, Venus in Fur, Benjamin Summers, J. Ben Wolfe, Lara Toner, Hildreth England, Claire Grasso, Patrick Crowley, Holly Crowley, Don Day

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)