The School for Lies



By David IvesTHE-SCHOOL-FOR-LIES-Chicago-Shakespeare-POSTER

Adapted from The Misanthrope by Moliere

Directed  by Barbara Gaines

At Chicago Shakespeare Theater

“Can you believe, back then, what dunces ranged
In every level of society?
Or that buffoons of wild variety
Actually held positions of great power?
Thank God we’ve none of that! No fools to sour
Our peace, no hypocrites to etch in acid.”

– Philinte’s opening remarks from The School of Lies

Wildly funny satirical farce bring 1666 to 2012

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.

devid ives

Daniel Ostling’s 17th Century set features a large chandelier and two imposing sets of French doors. The outragious1666 costumes are vividly extreme (designed by Susan E. Mickey) with equally wild wings and makeup (designed by Melissa Veal). Add that to a game cast of classical actors having a ball being comics, and you have a most impressive and hilarious evening of comedy.

the school for lies

Frank (the terrific Ben Carlson), 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 wacky Sean Fortunato), 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 funny and sensual Deborah Hay), 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.

When Philinte revengefully tells Celimine that Fran is actually King Louis’s bastard brother, Celimene figures Frank can help her with her slander court case. We see the three goofy suitors, Clitander (Paul Slade Smith), Oronte (Greg Vinkler), and Acaste (Kevin Gudahl) as they fumble and mumble while trying to woo Celimine into matrimony.

Plilinte meanwhile tells Frank that Celimine is in love with him, so Frank decides that honor requires him to love her back. Also Philinte love  Eliante (Heidi Kettenring) who seems to be falling for Frank.  Enter Celimine’s enemy, Arsinoe (Judith-Marie Bergan) who spars with Celimine and seeks to destroy her. Add the servant, Dubois/Basque (Samuel Taylor), who makes manic entries and exits with food that ends up flying everywhere, and 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.

the school for lies

Led by the articulate Ben Carlson as Frank and his real life wife Deborah Hay as Celimene, The School for Lies  is a rousing smart fun farce filled with funny moments, physicality as well as unique use of rhyming couplets. Greg Vinkler and Sean Fortunato, once again demonstrate their comic acumen. The entire cast is totally committed and seem to be having a good time playing those silly characters. Just sit back at let these talents take you back to 1666 while utilizing contemporary language in rhyming couplets. This show is fun!

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: December 12, 2012

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout The School for Lies page at

At Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, Chicago, IL,  call 312-595-5600,, tickets $58 – $78, Tuesday at 7:30 pm,  Wednesdays at 1 & 7:30 pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 3 &  8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission, through January 30, 2013

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