Thursday September 21st 2017

“The School for Lies” reviewed by Carol Moore

Highly Recommended **** I loved The Artistic Home’s production of “The School for Lies”, a modern satire done in period costumes.  Moliere might be rolling over in his grave, but David Ives’ adaptation of “The Misanthrope” is brilliant – and he wrote it in iambic pentameter!  “The School for Lies” is also a bawdy farce about people in an improbable situation, chock full of sophisticated word play, physical humor, pratfalls, disguises, mistaken identities and repeating gags.  Kudos to Director Kathy Scambiattera and her cast for a very funny production.  4 Spotlights

The actors are wearing period costumes – more about that later – but they’re talking in contemporary slang.  In fact, the laughs begin with the ‘turn off your cell phone’ speech, done in verse by Philinte (Julian Hester) whose fashionable ensemble includes a pink corset, lace collar and pink bows at the knees of his lace-trimmed breeches

Philinte brings his new friend, Frank (Mark Pracht), who has been living in England – the Brits are not fashionable, hence the all-black ensemble – to the salon of a popular hostess.  Frank, who is painfully blunt, sneers at the lies exchanged by Philinte and Clitander (Ted James).  When pink-wigged Dubois (Reid Coker) offers hors d’oevres, Frank’s gesture sends the tray flying.

Just then, Oronte (Todd Wojcik), a rather delusional would-be poet, rushes in with his latest opus.  After insisting that Frank give an opinion, he tries to read his new poem, but Frank keeps interrupting.  Finally, unable to contain himself, Frank offers a scathing critique, totally insulting the would-be bard, who threatens a lawsuit for slander.

Celimene (Annie Hogan) is a wealthy widow who is being courted by Clitander, Oronte, and Acaste (Averis I. Anderson), a legend-in-his-own-mind.  Although they press, she refuses to commit, keeping things light and flirty.  She being sued for slander and fears bankruptcy if she loses the suit, that doesn’t stop her from making fun of many of her acquaintances with spot-on parodies.  Philinte fancies himself in love with her young, rather flighty cousin, Eliante (Brookelyn Hebert), who thinks she’s in love with Frank.

Frank decides to demonstrate the evils of lying, so he starts a rumor that Philinte dresses in women’s clothes.  Arsinoe (Devon Carson), a loathsome woman who claims to be Celimene’s best friend, drops in.  The women exchange air kisses, but when Celimene leaves the room, Arsinoe riffles through her desk, then steals her personal letters.

Some of the over-the-top highlights:

  • Oronte standing on an ottoman declaiming in very bad verse
  • Eliante hissing while threatening Philinte with a knitting needle
  • Dubois’ tray-throwing tantrum after Celimene asked for hors d’oevres
  • Philinte and Frank tangling on the settee in a parody of love
  • Basque (Reid Coker), Frank’s Igor-like servant, hauling a trunk on his back, falling over backwards with feet flailing until he manages to stand
  • Arsinoe pulling not one but a string of letters out of her bosom
  • Frank’s reveal – adding a pair of bottle-glassed spectacles

Kudos to Zach Wagner for his edgy and over the top costumes, who might have run amok in the notions department at the fabric store.  In fact, I was reminded of that Scarlett O’Hara sketch where Carol Burnett wears the Tara curtains, rod, fringe and all.

  • Celimene’s attractions were on display in a gorgeous red strapless gown which should have clashed with her red hair, but somehow didn’t. In a modern touch, she accessorized with two pairs of sunglasses in her hair, another at her waist.
  • Eliante accessorized her pink gown with handy knitting needles in her hair.
  • Arsinoe’s uniquely constructed gray wig looked like it had huge wings/buns sticking out on either side.

The three suitors were perfect coxcombs strutting around the stage:

  • Clitander added a purple hat and a cane to his ensemble which featured a burgundy velvet tailcoat with an inexplicable transparent piece hanging at the bottom.
  • Oronte accessorized his faux fur jacket with a (shedding) feather boa, red beret and slippers.
  • Acaste a purple jacket over shiny pink pantaloons (could have been a skirt, hard to tell). He even had purple lace ruffles on his shoes.

“The School for Lies” runs through August 13th at The Artistic Home Theatre, 1376 W. Grand Avenue, Chicago.

Running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes, with an intermission.

Performances are:

Thursdays at 7:30 pm

Fridays at 8 p.m.

Saturdays at 8:00 pm

Sundays at 3:00 pm.

Tickets range from $28-$32.  Street parking only.  FYI (866) 811-4111 or www.theartistichome.org.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The School for Lies”.

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