So many words. So many wondrous, witty words written in rhyming couplets. Rhymes unexpected. Rhymes updated. Rhymes that make every good reason to run and see “The School for Lies” by the oh-so-clever David Ives. A new comedy very freely adapted from Moliere’s The Misanthrope written in 1666.
In this stylish and simply sumptuous production – sumptuous in its mounting and in its telling of the tale of Frank (the immensely charming and brilliant actor Hamish Linklater) a man who hates mankind. A man who is candid and blunt and tired of the ignorance and cultural amnesia that surrounds him. A man who falls in love with the beautiful Celimene (Mamie Gummer) a woman recently widowed. A woman rumored to have many lovers. The rumors spread by her dearest friend Arsinoe (Alison Fraser) who is not a gossip, she just reports.
Rumors and lawsuits run rampant here. And it’s not a question of who is right but who has the best connections in court that has everyone trying to connect and to win.
The real winner is the audience. The actors are perfection. Each in their own richly detailed and color-coded-for-each-character costume by William Ivey Long set against an ivory floor, wall and ceiling with only a brass chandelier and pine secretaire as décor designed by an equally talented titan John Lee Beatty.
Walter Bobbie has directed this piece de resistance with an incredible flair for truth and absurdity. It’s comical genius at work here. When Dubois (Steven Moyer) serves his silver tray of canapés – beware! It’s a running joke that never, never runs out of steam as Mr. Bobbie continually comes up with new and imaginative variations. Mr. Moyer also doubles as Basque – the smelly valet of Frank. The explanation for his playing both roles is another masterful comic tidbit.
The cousin of Celimene, Elainte (Jenn Gambatese) is a coquette hoping to snare the man of her dreams Philante (Hoon Lee) with a stop in between canoodling with Frank.
When Celimene and Elainte enter it is a glorious vision of ivory and blue and at once you think of Meryl Streep so close a resemblance to her mother is Mamie Gummer as Celimene. And she too has those terrific actress genes. A great match for Frank dressed in black with a mop of curly hair atop his head, she has the quick quip ready for him at every turn.
Although she has three suitors – Oronte (Rick Holmes) a bad poet with a nose wart, the unemployed Acaste (Matthew Maher) who knows what to say to please and Clitander (Frank Harts) whose modern day moniker is right out there, she still pines for her lost husband Alceste.
The denouement of The School for Lives outdoes everything that has preceded it and I’m not exaggerating. And then the curtain call tops off this hysterical evening of theatre brilliantly. It’s beyond highly recommended. It’s pure gold.
www.classicstage.org Photo: Joan Marcus
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