Guest Columns

HUDSON: THEATER SEASON IS UNDERWAY

Two fun-filled local productions worth seeing

Contributing Columnist

THE LIAR as adapted by David Ives from Pierre Corneille’s original farce. Directed by Kent Thompson at the DCPA and playing through October 16. SOME GIRL(s) by Neil LaBute, at the Edge Theater Company, 9797 W. Colfax. Directed by Rick Yaconis and playing weekends through October 23.

The 2011-12 Denver theater season is officially underway. The DCPA launches with an amusing adaptation of Corneille’s 17th Century comedy, as loosely translated into rhymed verse by David Ives. Better known for his tragedies, Corneille penned THE LIAR just prior to the emergence of Moliere’s wildly popular Comédie Francaise. The title character, Dorante, is a young man, recently arrived in Paris, who paves his way into society with a never ceasing stream of exaggerations, misrepresentations and bald-faced lies. Mix this propensity with mistaken identities, a long suffering and bumbling man-servant, Cliton, played brilliantly by local actor, Matt Zambrano, and you have just the vehicle for the Denver Center Company to flash its chops.

The period costumes are magnificent and Thompson’s direction is crisp and quick, moving the story along at a rapid clip that makes its silliness funny even when the script struggles to prove absorbing. Ives sprinkles the iambic pentameter rhythms of his translation with contemporary references and a considerable bashing of lawyers. Dorante has been a law student, and there is a recurring thread, which attributes his ceaseless prevarications to his legal training. (It was only a few decades earlier when Shakespeare wrote, “…the first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”) The irony is that no one believes anything Dorante has to say, yet he blindly blunders ahead convinced he is successfully fooling everyone. We’ve all met his kind.

Ives is nothing, if not clever. He forces rhymes that will nearly make you groan, but his punditry remains consistently inventive, even startling. Corneille, if he were to return to Denver, might not understand these references but he would certainly recognize his play. The boy still lands the right girl in the end, while the confusion he has sown proves largely harmless. This production may be little more than a dramatic bauble, but it offers a sweet confection to its audience and proof that human nature remains constant.

(From left to right) Drew Cortese, Jeanine Serralles, Amy Kersten, Amelia Pedlow in Denver Center Theatre Company’s production of The Liar. Photo by Terry Shapiro

Neil LaBute is the current wild man of American theater, whose scripts like to prod at the sensitive underside of romantic relationships and their failures. Frequently believed to be a misogynist, SOME GIRL(s) allows LaBute to expose the ugly arrogance of a man surpassingly in love with himself. Effectively directed by Rick Yaconis, and presented without intermission in four rapid-fire scenes, James O’Hagan-Murphy arranges brief meetings with four of his former girlfriends. Guy, recently engaged to be married, has become a hugely successful magazine writer who seeks “closure” with his former girlfriends. While he seems to expect that each will confirm he was the best thing to ever happen to them, they all are, in fact, still tending to festering emotional wounds.

O’Hagan-Murphy’s performance is both demanding and brilliant, as he glides from being merely a jerk to a full-blown, flaming asshole. Through it all he remains effortlessly oblivious to the cruelty and stupidity of his past behavior, which remains largely unchanged in the present. When asked about his fiancé, he refers to her as just ‘some girl,’ not anyone he wants to talk about when he can talk about himself. All four actresses hit their roles out of the park. Sam, his high school sweetheart, is now married with kids, while Tyler was the wild girl who was willing to make love in a phone booth. Lindsay was the older, married teacher with whom he had an adulterous “affair” which was exposed to her husband, while Bobbi is the successful professional who discovers that Guy is actually taping these conversations as potential material for future articles.

What starts out as lingering resentment evolves into intense loathing during these encounters as Guy mouths ignorant platitudes to justify his choices. No man can miss the nodding heads of the women in LaBute’s audience, as these women fight back and inform Guy that not only did he hurt them badly, but his current failure to apologize shows that he continues to fail them. The Edge Theater proves you don’t need a huge budget to mount genuinely compelling drama. This is a great production, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a date night unless your relationship is on solid ground.

Miller Hudson is also a theater critic in addition to all his other talents.