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The Naming of Things

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Sha Cage and Zach Curtis in The Liar

As I was watching the final plays of last season, I began to wonder what effect would it have on audience draw and expectations if some of those plays had had a different name. For instance, despite its billing as a comedy/drama, did people think Sons of a Prophet would be a heavier drama, considering its title and central theme on suffering? What if the play had instead been called All Is Well, which was the invariably optimistic mantra of the Douaihy family throughout the play?

Coming up from September 9 to October 2 as the first play of the Park Square Theatre 2016-2017 season is the area premiere of The Liar by playwright David Ives. It features Sha Cage in the title role, Dorante, who just cannot tell the truth (as described by another character in the play: “This guy’s so slippery he’s a sea of grease”). In contrast, his servant Cliton, played by Zach Curtis, cannot tell a lie (his self-described “tragic flaw”). This juxtaposition of yin-yang characters and the awkward situations triggered result in an outright, laugh-out-loud comedy.

To me, The Liar seems an apt enough title for a comedy. Straight and to the point, it is devoid of adjectives, kept open with possibilities. It’s not called The Dirty Liar, for instance, with angry overtones, or The Silly Liar to limit its scope of humor. Nor does the play bear any of these other titles that may cause preconceived notions:

  • Untruthful – sounds like a sinister and heavy drama
  • Honestly!?! – too sincere
  • Dorante, The Liar – must be a tragic period piece
  • Liar! Liar! Pants on Fire! – geared toward a young audience
  • Liar! – potential ripoff of the 1997 Jim Carrey movie, Liar! Liar!

Titles do matter to spark initial interest to see a production. The Liar is a misleadingly honest title that denotes a mystery and a truth that you shall experience only if you come to see the play.

I wouldn’t lie about something like that!

 

 

Ting Ting Cheng, Blog Author, Park Square Theatre
Ting Ting Cheng

Ting Ting Cheng joined Park Square Theatre's Front of House staff in 2014. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Los Angeles, she became a Minnesotan after graduating from Carleton College with a B.A. in English Literature. She loves live theatre and has a passion for writing.

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