Review by RJ Mozak
Adapted from The Misanthrope by Moliere, The School for Lies at the Artistic Home is a colorful, dramatic, and often hilarious romp that entertains and engages the audience from start to finish.
Set in 17th century France, the production tells the distinctly old world story of Celimene (played by Annie Hogan) and her many suitors as they simultaneously vie for her affection and slander one another when backs are turned. The suitors range from the jaded and devil may care Frank (Mark Pracht) to the proud yet pathetic Oronte (Todd Wojcik). The variety of characters in the production allows for comedy of all styles and ensures that there are laughs for everyone in the audience.
The highlight of the show is the wordplay. Spoken entirely in rhyming couplets, each cast member expertly delivers tongue twister-levels of dialogue which never cease to be impressive, dramatic, and hilarious. Interactions between the characters are sarcastic and biting in all the right ways; the lines are filled with complicated wordplay and alliterations that are a joy to unpack. The verbal humor and drama is also paired with a healthy dose of physical comedy to ensure variety and unpredictability. Very few jokes fell flat – the comedy in the production is sublime.
While the language and dialogue are certainly the productions’ strengths, it at times plays to these strengths a bit too much when attempting to portray drama. Character monologues tend to drag and lose their intended effect, especially in the second act. The plot wraps up in a satisfying way, however, the production could have benefited from abridging a few of the lengthier dramatic portions to keep a slightly faster pace throughout.
The adaptation is also commendable. Despite its old world setting, the production deftly uses anachronism in set design, language, and props to convey to the audience that the themes and ideas of the story (authenticity, hypocrisy, and pride) are still very much applicable to modern society. These anachronisms range from subtle touches, such as a cast member preparing a “fishbowl” cocktail at the bar, to the more overt choices, such as a character rapping out a “diss track” about another character while other cast members film on their phones. Despite these choices which would otherwise be completely out of place, the production does a fantastic job to ensure that they never break the immersion of a 17th century French court.
Overall, The School for Lies is a fantastic production which expertly blends together comedy and drama for an incredibly engaging experience. Excellent dialogue paired with captivating performances and a deft use of anachronisms makes the price of admission definitely worthwhile.
The School for Lies runs until August 13th and tickets are $28 for Th/Sun and $32 for Fri/Sat. More information here.