By David Ives.
Adapted from The Misanthrope by Moliere.
Directed by Kathy Scambeatterra.
At The Artistic Home, Chicago.
Wildly over-the-top French farce goes from 1666 to 2017 with David Ives’ writing.
This is the second time I’ve seen The School for Lies. Chicago Shakespeare Theatre mounted it in 2012 with Ben Carlson in the lead. I enjoyed that production mainly due to the terrific articulation and enunciation education from the classic trained Equity cast.
Playwright David Ives sure knows how to take the 17th Century classic French farce, The Misanthrope, and bring it up to date from 1666 to modern times by using a mixture of rhyming couplets. Ives blends Moliere’s wordy comedy of manners style with contemporary colloquialisms with casual vulgarity and scatological humor that could offend some. Yet, the zaniness of the classic characters together with the witty couplets played for extreme comic effect, makes for a belly laughing theatrical feast.
Frank (the winning Mark Pracht), is a poor Frenchman living in England who prides himself for telling it like it is- the truth as he sees it. While visiting Paris with his new friend Philinte (the zany Julian Hester), Frank tries to demonstrate the folly of telling lies bu starting a rumor that Philinte loves to dress as a women. Next, Frank meets Celimene (the sensual Annie Hogan), the gossip-loving widow who delights by flirting with her many suitors. Frank and Celimene clash in a marvelous set of witty exchanges that finds loads of laughs as the couplets for forth.
As the action unfolds, all the elements of classic farce are in play. Stolen letters, mistaken identity, misunderstanding, false proposals, jealousy become a tug-of-war that results in silly, over-the-top comedy fueled by those zany couplets and rich physical antics make for a satirically funny farce. This comedy is saucy, sexy, and scandal ridden. Gossip, glamor and grossness dominates. This production suffers from too often the players either speak too fast or swallow the punchline or rhythm. Slowing down a tad would help.
The School for Lies is a rousing smart farce filled with funny moments, physicality as well as unique use of rhyming couplets. Julian hester and Mark Pracht, demonstrate their comic acumen. The entire cast is committed and seem to be having a good time playing those silly characters. Just sit back at let these players take you back to 1666 while utilizing contemporary language in rhyming couplets. This show can be fun!
At The Artistic Home, 1376 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL, call 866-811-4111, www.theartistichome.org, tickets $28-32, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission.