Leave complications to our evening’s hero,
A lying genius, if a moral zero.
No, my announcement may be even worse:
Tonight our actors will speak in verse!
In case you hadn’t noticed that small fact.
We’ll speak PENTAMETER, to be exact.
And what the blank’s pentameter, you say?
It’s what I’m speaking now! On with the play!
— from the Prologue of The Liar
The wordplay in The Liar on Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage from September 9 to October 2 is so profuse and requires such dexterity to perform that, in no time at all, the actor’s mouths will work up a sweat. The audience will be perched on the edge of their seats, wondering if the actors can pull off all those stunning verbal acrobatics.
The Liar itself is dubbed by playwright David Ives as a “translaptation,” which Ives defines as his “translation with a heavy dose of adaptation” of French dramatist Pierre Corneille’s 1643 play Le Menteur. Corneille himself had lifted the plot about a young gentleman who cannot tell the truth from (and in Ives’ opinion, vastly improved upon) a Spanish play. Ultimately, Ives did to Corneille’s version what Corneille had done to the Spanish play.
Ives made sure to retain the integrity of Corneille’s vision but also tweaked and tightened the characters and plot to fit more modern sensibilities. Where did the play drag? What seemed outmoded for a 21st-century audience? Snip, snip; tuck, tuck; invent anew. Ives’ The Liar, in fact, has some newly fabricated characters and a totally different ending than Le Menteur.
What Ives emphatically did want to keep, though, was the playfully lavish language on which the comedic tenor of the play depends. In his essay “The Whole Truth About The Liar,” Ives describes how he’d come to that conclusion:
Corneille lived a generation before French classicism hardened into the severity of Racine, and he has the devil-may-care brio of the Baroque. His love of the world and of human life vibrates in every line. . . . My version would have to be in verse, just as it is in Corneille. The Liar is a portrait of a brilliant performer walking a tightrope for the whole length of the action, and it needs language to match.
So throughout the entire course of the play, one encounters what should be the most impossible rhymes. “Ironic” rhymes with ____? “Umbrella” with ____? “Beguiled” and ____?
Well, I simply cannot say
Or give anything else away.
You’ll need to buy a ticket
To hear the wild and wicked wordplay.
(Psst–there’s even a kind of swordplay.)
So be sure not to miss all the fun
Of hearing some truly naughty p—!
— from the musings of Ting