Wednesday August 23rd 2017

“The School For Lies”

Many “classical theater lovers” truly enjoy the works of Moliere- in particular “The Misanthrope”, which is a story about honesty and how a little lie can go a long way. One of the beautiful things about our Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier, is that what is normal, may just not be. In this case, Under the direction of Barbara Gaines, our audiences are seeing this story as seen through the eyes of adapter David Ives taking it to a whole new level. Let me preface what I am about to say with “if you adore or love the original play, you may just have some difficulty with this very modernistic, “camp”, satire using verse and modern language ( with contemporary slang). But, if you are seeking a release of what is pent up inside you and need two plus hours of laughter, this interpretation might be, as the doctors say “Good for what ails you!”

The story is as the original; the spreading of many lies in order to shake it up and lots of mistaken intentions relative to who loves who or who wants who and in fact, who is who. Due to all of these lies and what comes from telling them, the characters in the story are unsure of who is who and how they fit into the picture. In some cases, the characters who have been played on do take on the “roles” that others have expressed their nature to be causing more mistaken identities and mayhem. This is almost pure “Marx Brothers” slapstick comedy, played to perfection under the sharp and clever staging of Ms Gaines on a cleverly designed set (Daniel Ostling), solid lighting (Philip S. Rosenberg),magnificent costumes (Susan E. Mickey) wig and make-up design (Melissa Veal) and sound and original music ( Lindsay Jones). While there is no pure choreography to this production, the movement work ( Rick Sordelet is the consultant) is sheer perfection, making the slapstick truly seem real instead of “put-on”.

But to do pure comedy of this nature, the director must have a cast of players up to the task, and this one will exceed your expectations ( unless of course you are a Moliere “purist”). Our main characters in this story are Frank ( Ben Carlson in a stunningly strong portrayal) a native of Paris who has recently returned, the lovely Deborah Hay as Celimene, a young widow of Paris society ( Carlson and Hay, are in fact husband and wife offstage), Chicago favorite Sean Fortunato as Philinte who is deeply in love with Eliante, cousin of Celimene, deftky handled by another favorite, Heidi Kettenring, in a somewhat different role for her, proving just how much talent we have available in our city and the three would be suitors of Celimene; Paul Slade Smith, Kevin Gudahl and welcome back Greg Vinkler- these three actors are as smooth as silk with their comic touches, making even a facial movement have deep comic meaning. Vinkler has been missed at CST, but he is back and as smart as ever. The other actors rounding out this stellar cast are Judith-Marie Bergan as Arsinoe, a moral pillar of the community and Samuel Taylor as both Dubois,Celimene’s servant and Basque, Frank’s valet ( twins?) Taylor has some very funny bits of action and has absolutely perfect timing. Don’t be surprised if during the first act, you get served some wonderful hors dourves in your seats by the acrobatic Taylor.

As I stated from the very onset- this is sheer comedy on stage. The story is a bit inane and far from the original work, but to be honest, I could care less. It is a fun-filled evening with some solid acting and a special playfulness in the connection between the characters on the stage and the audience. As the play ended, the audience was on its feet applauding, and even hooting and hollering, which is not the norm at CST. A pure delight that with the exception of a little language can be viewed by the family.

This delightful production will run through January 20th at Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier. To see the complete schedule of performances, visit

Tickets range in price from $58-$78 and are available at the box office, by phone at 312-595-5600 or of course online at

Navy Pier is located at 800 East Grand Avenue with easy public transportation, lots of eating spots and discounted parking for theater patrons. The beauty of this attraction is that you could come early and enjoy the many features and then top it off with a theatrical experience that will allow you to forget any troubles of the world for the two hours plus and many hours after.

For other views, visit  click in review round-up and then click at “The School For Lies”


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