Academy's 'Liar' Explores The Art Of The Lie

By: Ellen Chahey

It’s a “translaptation,” according to its playwright, an idea based upon an idea that is based, yet again, upon an idea.

That’s what David Ives wrote about “The Liar,” his translation of a French play, “Le Menteur,” written in 1643 by Pierre Corneille and based upon a yet-older Spanish source. If you’re not confused enough yet, the play that you would see at the Academy of the Performing Arts in Orleans through Feb. 11 will also confront you with mistaken identities, identical twins with insanely different personalities, and, well, yet another twin-related surprise.

The Academy bravely fields eight talented actors who give fine performances in what producing artistic director Peter Earle called “a farce except without a lot of [slamming] doors.” These are Geof Newton (also technical and lighting director); Will Oxtoby; Todd Gosselin; Racine Oxtoby; Susanna Creel; Jefferson C. Post; Stuard M. Derrick; and Heidi Moeykens.

Each of the actors is a veteran of Academy shows. Each needs to take the stage in their own turn, and they do not disappoint.

Here is Ives’s own account of how he saw “The Liar” for the first time, with the help of  “a fat French dictionary:”

“Everything about it spoke to me. The rippling language. The simplicity of the premise alongside the intricate rigor of the plotting. Its wide understanding and humanity, seasoned with several pinches of social satire.”

The main idea of “The Liar” revolves, ironically, around truth. What does storytelling mean? Is it invention, is it vision about what might be? Or is it just a lie? Is it a mix of all the above?

Jefferson C. Post’s direction keeps the play moving so that even a 5-year-old seated in front of us seemed not to get bored. Ellen Birmingham’s costumes for the women were gorgeous; the men’s were not so attractive. Her set design allowed lots of mobility from interiors to exteriors.

Ives was first asked to translate this play for the Shakespeare Theatre Company of Washington, D.C., a city not unfamiliar with the art of lying. Here is how Ives said that he made his peace with it: “ …in translating a play one must ask: What is the action underneath the words, who are these characters, what drives them, and finally, what is this play all about? In the end I did to 'The Liar' exactly what Corneille had done in 1643 to his Spanish source: I reworked it to my own ends. The result is what I call a ‘translaptation,’ i.e., a translation with a heavy dose of adaptation. So here it is. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, as refracted in a theatrical fun-house mirror. Welcome to ‘The Liar.’”

The play – which, by the way, Ives wrote in pentameter – has a running time of two-and-a-half hours with a 15-minute intermission.

Next up at the Academy will be Cole Porter’s musical “Kiss Me, Kate” from March 2 through April 8 (Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 and Sundays at 2), followed by “Blue Skies on the Hill,” a concert series featuring Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, Entrain and others on Saturday evenings beginning April 14.



“The Liar”

At the Academy Of Performing Arts, Orleans

Through Feb. 11

Information and reservations: 508-255-1963,