A Singer's Notes by Keith Kibler

A Singer’s Notes 66: Corneille’s The Liar at Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, Massachusetts

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David Joseph and Emily Rose Ehlinger in a scene from Corneille's The Liar at Shakespeare & Co.
David Joseph and Emily Rose Ehlinger in a scene from Corneille’s The Liar at Shakespeare and Co.

Pierre Corneille, The Liar at Shakespeare and Company
Adapted by David Ives
Directed by Kevin Coleman

Plays are made of words. Lies are made of words. How about a play full of lies? Maybe it’s a better play—if the lying seems deliberately false, the play itself becomes reality.

Or maybe it’s a question of delightful excess—a kind of phantasmagoria of falsity, a whirlwind that sweeps us up. We try to follow it—doing this was especially fun in “The Liar” ay Shakespeare and Co.—we lose the thread; we regain the thread. But what was it true in it? There is a kind of whirling motion in the play that makes our minds circle and balk. After a while I give up. The play becomes almost entirely words, fun words, silly words, dirty words. The sounds of them are delicious. They must be delivered with skill, virtuosity in fact. David Joseph as The Liar himself, had this. We saw his second performance of the day, and it was fresh as a daisy, a veritable gluttony of elegant speaking. He also had an innocence which helped us stay with him, cheer him on. After all, even he got confused and might have ended up with the wrong girl.

And then there was the quiet moment with Emily Rose Ehlinger as Lucrece, the actor on the female side who at first seems unable to speak a single word. Late in the play she finds her voice, most beautifully, when she is alone, and only we are listening. This fine young actress allowed us all to slow down and listen with our hearts instead of our ears. Her monologue was the most finished part of the performance. We were surprised by the sweetness of reality.

So the proportions were this: mountains of words, lot of to-ing and fro-ing, finally something from the heart. Only one question remains—can the Liar stop talking? Or more crucially, can he talk the way Lucrece does?!

The whole was elegantly directed by Kevin Coleman. Never over the top, he allowed his players to be free, helped them to be free, and that is the best discipline of all.

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