The School for Lies

December 4, 2012

January 20, 2013

in CST's Courtyard Theater

by David Ives
adapted from The Misanthrope by Molière
directed by Barbara Gaines

Critical Acclaim

Highly recommended! A brilliantly dazzling homage to Molière. Gaines (who clearly has had the time of her life with this show), and her nine bravura actors (whose verbal and physical skills are mind-boggling), seize hold of Ives’ words, and run with them as if their Alexander McQueen-meets-Vivienne Westwood couture costumes were in danger of catching fire. As the program reminds us, while this is Ives’ “adaptation” of “The Misanthrope,” the 17th century Frenchman’s comedy of sex, love, hypocrisy and the scathing invective of the chattering class, he has served as far more than a literary remix man for the play. Yes, he has grabbed hold of Moliere’s general plot line and characters. But he has catapulted those characters’ language, and certain aspects of their behavior, right into the 21st century. And he has done so with the sort of verbal compulsiveness, whiplash-inducing speed, bluntness and variety that might well cause his francophone predecessor to turn baroque somersaults in his grave.” 

A highly extravagant and energetic production... Molière meets The Book of Mormon. Gaines' production, staged under a dazzlingly elaborate light sculpture created by set designer Daniel Ostling and nearly consumed by a hilarious costume design from Susan E. Mickey that lands somewhere between Tartuffe and Mamma Mia, has the great benefit of the real-life Canadian couple of Deborah Hay and Ben Carlson, Stratford darlings both, starring in Chicago like latter-day versions of the Lunts. Both are excellent, as is Heidi Kettenring an indomitable but relentlessly honest Chicago actress who knows that great farce must always have the patina of panic. Carlson has total ease with language of any stripe and yet always conveys a contemporary insouciance at the same time. Few can match him. Hay, meanwhile, is a charmer with a very un-Canadian sting in her tail — and in her voice box, which emits a great boom whenever she needs to call some miscreant soul to order or land a laugh.”

"A raunchy, ribald, riotous evening inspired by Molière but given added kick by New York’s hot comedy playwright of the moment. If there’s a secret to this Tony Award-winning theatre’s success, it’s that its artistic director, Barbara Gaines, thinks in terms of bold modern theatricality while keeping her feet firmly in literature’s classic roots."

      It's a busy time of year, but do yourself a favor and make time to attend The School for Lies... a quick-witted verbal barrage of retorts, sarcasm, misunderstandings, and schemes, all delivered in clever and amusing rhyming couplets. Anyone who has attended the CST’s Shakespeare plays is used to seeing those stories told in modern times with modern dress while retaining the original language. This play turns that idea on its head with 17th century Parisian society and clothing dressed up in modern day language and references. Hearing modern words like “dude” and “LOL” coming from people in 17th century French dress is startling at first, but it works, because whether it’s the 17th or 21st century, human emotions and interactions don’t change much across the centuries.”

“This one will exceed your expectations! As the play ended, the audience was on its feet applauding, and even hooting and hollering. If you are seeking two plus hours of laughter, this might be, as the doctors say 'Good for what ails you!'  Paul Slade Smith, Kevin Gudahl and Greg Vinkler 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.”

“Working with the skilled design team and an exemplary ensemble, Gaines has concocted a wonderful broad soufflé of comedy. The word play is so dazzling and presented with such abundance that the audience can be pinned against their seats by the sheer velocity of all the clever rhymes and satirical jabs. Ives uses rhyming couplets with remarkable ingenuity, the rhymes coming not only at the ends of lines but within the lines.”

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