The School for Lies, presented by Algonquin College’s Theatre Arts program, is a liberal adaptation of Moliere’s most well-known work: The Misanthrope – a social commentary satirizing 16th century French society.
Should you see it?
The School for Lies centers on Frank, a man with a frank tongue (haha?), a lack of shyness, and a disdain for the way human society carries on about itself. He has been brought to the home of Celimene by Philinte for introductions. So much happens from there that it’s a hard play to sum up succinctly. Frank quickly makes enemies of the bard Oronte, earns the affections of Eliante (Celimene’s cousin) and eventually Celimene herself, who he’s inexplicably drawn to. There’s duplicity, lying, and cross-purposes galore as the comedy of errors pokes grand fun at the hypocrisy of a Parisian society that will flatter to your face and gossip behind your back.
David Ives’ script is in rhyming verse – which takes a bit of getting settled into – and is genuinely very funny. The script’s humour is well enhanced by the expert direction of Catriona Leger who is completely in her element here.
The design of The School for Lies is tight. The extravagance of 16th century Paris is beautifully portrayed in a contemporary/future way not entirely unlike the portrayal of The Capitol from the Hunger Games (yep, Hunger Games reference, deal with it). It is worthy – rightly so given Vanessa Imeson’s (costumes) and John Doucet’s (set) pedigree – of any professional stage you could name.
Here’s where that usual caveat comes up. Being that this is a production by a class of relatively inexperienced theatre students – where everybody gets to act in one of three shows – you can sometimes find an actor who isn’t as ready or a playing against type that doesn’t work and requires a higher than usual suspension of disbelief to overcome. (i.e., Physically having young adults playing grandparents or shoehorning actors into a theatrical style that doesn’t suit them.)
Fortunately, there’s little of that here. The cast of The School for Lies is wonderful from top to bottom. Particularly the show’s leads. Trevor Osbourne and Ryan Young have it locked in from lights up as Philinte and Frank. It’s immediately a good job when the actors are just as good to watch when they’re not speaking and are reacting to goings on – such as when Oronte is reciting his poetry early in the show and Philinte desperately wants Frank to find something positive to say yet is horrified he won’t. Krista LeBlanc’s Eliante started off a bit soft, but once Eliante got a chance to express herself – the attempted seduction of Frank – she really sparked. It was Sasha Laing’s Celimene, however, who was the lynchpin that cemented this show together. She was on point and in command every second she was on stage. A joy to watch.
I’m a fan of the work that the Algonquin College Theatre Arts Program puts up. Even if a show has issues (and some have), it’s always obvious that they’re giving it their all and having a ball doing it. I will often say to get out there and give them your support and encouragement because they’re part of the future of this city’s theatre arts. And you still should definitely do that.
This time though, I’m saying get out there and see The School For Lies, because it’s really, really good. The School for Lies will easily be as entertaining as anything else playing this week – and there is quite a bit. This is especially true when you consider the $15 ticket price. Wait? $10 ticket price? Now you have no excuse.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. Did you find the show as funny as I did or is my sense-of-humour-ometer off kilter? What did you think of the production design? Join the discussion and let me know in the comments below.
The School For Lies runs through February 15th at Studio N112 at Algonquin College. More information here.