Corneille’s “The Liar:” a romping ruckus of a play

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After months of rehearsals in the Drama Building and the Margaret Jonsson Theater, “The Liar” is ready to open. Photo by Anthony Garnier.

This semester, the University of Dallas Drama Department welcomes guest director David Denson to the Margaret Jonsson Theater to direct an exciting production of Pierre Corneille’s “The Liar,” translated and adapted by David Ives.

Denson describes the show as having the ability to transport the audience from a world of deadlines, stress and work to one of whimsy and excitement.

“[It is a] much needed frivolity,” Denson said.

The show is a fast-paced, slapstick comedy that follows the exciting escapades of Dorante, played by junior Samuel Pate, as he attempts to establish himself in Paris as a renegade ladies’ man.

Through his extravagant lies and entrancing tall tales, he captures the attention of the citizens, forming unlikely friendships, challenging dangerous enemies and pursuing a very confused pair of love interests.

Every step Dorante takes heightens the stakes of the show as he hilariously buries himself beneath intricate lies and a myriad of mix-ups.

“It’s just a romping ruckus of a play,” junior Noah Kersting, who plays Dorante’s sidekick Cliton, said. “It’s going to be just two and a half hours of non-stop slapstick, wig-slapping off, hat-falling, sword-fighting comedy.”

Pate said “It’s like going to a party,”

Though the show is set in mid-seventeenth century, anachronistic elements such as the Eiffel Tower, fire hydrants and googly eyes form bridges between 1643 France and 2017 America.

The designs are saturated in vibrant colors and drawn with simple lines that evoke the clear cut world of cartoons. In fact, many of the set pieces are two dimensional, further promoting the cartoon-like aesthetic.

“It’s going to throw you back to your childhood,” Kersting said about the design elements. “It will make you remember when you were sitting in front of the TV as a child, and the colors are going to wow you.”

Even the translation brings out this anachronistic flavor.

“My version of the play is what I call a translaptation, i.e., a translation with a heavy dose of adaptation,” Ives wrote in an article about his translation process.

Through this rebellious approach to translation, Ives strives to freshen and modernize the language with tongue-in-cheek Shakespeare references, colloquial word play and several plot changes from the original. Though the result differs from the original jokes and plot of the original, Ives’ hysterical translation sparkles with the same verve and vivacity of Corneille.

In order to gear up for the rigorous physical comedy, the cast spent several rehearsals playing improvisational games and honing their celebrity impressions.

“Dave really helped us open up our creative minds, which he wanted us to unlock for ourselves,” Pate said. “He gave us the tools and the support to unleash that.”

Kersting also praised Denson’s ability to encourage the cast to open up.

“David has done a lot for us in terms of allowing us to find our own way and let loose creatively, but at the same time steering us in the direction we need to go and keeping us on course,” Kersting said. “It’s made all of us step up our game a little bit.”

After six weeks of rehearsals and an even longer design and research process, the cast and crew of “The Liar” will be presenting their side-splitting final product for us all. The show opens Wednesday, March 29 and will run through Saturday, April 8. Tickets can be reserved online at udallas.edu/drama.

One day before opening, Pate gave some final advice to audience members.

“Be ready to engage, be ready to have fun with an open mind and an open heart,” Pate said. “Be ready to party, be ready to laugh, be ready to feel at ease and be ready to enjoy yourselves. Just relax.”

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