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Based on Misanthrope, Rep's romp Lies rhymes

By JACK W. HILL SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published October 12, 2017 at 1:45 a.m.

Janie Brookshire stars as Celimene in The Rep’s production of The School for Lies.

The School for Lies

7 p.m. today, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday; with performances at 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays, through Oct. 29, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Sixth and Main streets, Little Rock

Preview performance: 7 p.m. today with pre-show director’s talk (6:15 to 6:45 p.m.)

Tickets: $48, $38, $20 for students (advance sales); $15 (student rush – day of performance)

(501) 378-0405

therep.org/attend

"Bawdy" and "risque" are words seldom used to describe productions at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, but they are out and on the table to explain the current production, The School for Lies, based upon Moliere's 17th-century comedy, The Misanthrope.

David Ives adapted Moliere's play, giving it present-day language in rhyming couplets, and in English, not Moliere's original French.

Giovanna Sardelli is directing the Rep's production, and notes that while the language might be modern-day, the look of the play adheres to Moliere's day and age.

"There's a real lyrical quality to the play," Sardelli says. "David Ives gave us some formal structure but chose to use contemporary language -- bawdy and ribald at times -- to make observations, still relevant today, about so-called fashionable society. And it's a wicked farce, the way it contrasts the highbrow characters with lowbrow humor.

"The name of the play, with the word 'lies' as part of the name, is quite significant, we learn, as the characters try to sort that and figure out secrets."

The setting is 1666, in the salon of an estate where one of the women, an attractive widow with a sharp tongue, learns she is being sued because of her caustic remarks about the talents of a poet.

Meanwhile, she is besieged by would-be suitors, but she fends them off, evading all who would love her, until the arrival of a traveler who has returned from England and is a match for her sharp tongue, which leads her to reconsider her evasions of all would-be lovers.

"Unlike my fellow Parisians, my character has no tolerance for hypocrisy," says Jeremy Rishe, who portrays Frank, a native of Paris, recently returned from Great Britain, where he has lived for years. "Frank finds this witty widow woman to be of great interest."

Janie Brookshire, who plays Celimene, the young widow and prominent member of Paris society, says,"There's lots of witty repartee in the show. And we are whipping out our rhyming lines, the women in the cast, that is, while we bustle to and fro on the stage, which is a huge set, in these elaborate costumes consisting of six layers of skirts in some cases. And there's what we might call 'tomfoolery' in the show."

The show's costume designer is Rafael Colon Castanera, who is well-known at the Rep for his beautiful designs, Sardelli says, adding that elaborate, amazing wigs are also part of the show's period appeal. To make the distinctions of each character easier, each has a signature color.

"These are the most beautiful costumes," says Gabriella Fanuele, who plays Eliante, the cousin of Celimene, "and they are also the most absurd and funny. And we have mistaken identities to add to the fun. Quite a few of the characters are obsessed with their doings."

Joe Wegner, who plays Philante, who is enamored of Eliante (who, alas for him, is gaga for Frank), says, "While it may seem odd and seemingly more difficult that our lines rhyme, to us, I think it's a bit easier, as they are in iambic pentameter."

Others in the nine-member cast are: Patrick Halley as Acaste (a moneyed marquis), Carine Montbertrand as Arsinoe (a moral pillar), Mark Light-Orr as Clitander (an influential courtier), Michael Fell as both Dubois (Celimene's servant) and Basque (Frank's valet) and Shawn Fagan as Oronte (a boulevard bard).

"For anyone who's never been to the theater, this show is a good place to start," Sardelli says, "in that it has all the elements that people might expect to see in a play, such as costumes and the set and the rhyming, suggestive of Shakespeare. And the play was written to include the audience. It's very much like a contemporary sitcom."

Additional events for The School for Lies include:

• At noon today, the Clinton School of Public Service Distinguished Speaker Series will present Producing Artistic Director John Miller-Stephany and members of the cast and creative team in a panel discussion at the school, 1200 President Clinton Ave. To reserve seats, email publicprograms@clintonschool.uasys.edu or call (501) 683-5239.

• At 6 p.m. today, the play's second preview performance of opening week will include Beer Night, provided by Lost Forty Brewing and the Arkansas Times.

• At 6 p.m. Friday, the Rep has inaugurated a new feature, Opening Night Dinner, in celebration of Miller-Stephany's first programmed season at the Rep. The three-course dinner will be held in the Rep's Rehearsal Hall, with pre-dinner libations. Cost is $75 per person; for reservations, call (501) 378-0405. (Tickets to the performance are not included.)

There will also be an opening night post-show reception with the cast, with a complimentary toast provided by La Marca Prosecco and light hors d'oeuvres from RSVP Catering.

• At 7 p.m. Sunday (only on Oct. 15), "Pay Your Age Night" will permit those between ages 22 and 40 to pay the equivalent of their age for a ticket. There are 100 such tickets available to buy and only four tickets per household will be sold, with proof of age for each person in a party required at the time of pickup of the tickets. There will be a complimentary wine tasting provided by Legacy Wine and Spirits.

• At 6 p.m. Tuesday, Brewhaha will feature complimentary pizza and beer before the 7 p.m. performance, provided by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. There will also be preshow performances by Little Rock comedians Kayla Esmond, Amber Glaze, Josh Ogle and Jason Thompson.

• On Wednesday, immediately following the performance, "Epilogue: A Conversation with the Actors," will feature a discussion with members of the cast.

• At 6 p.m. Oct. 19, Stone's Throw Brewery will sponsor Beer Night.

• At 6:30 p.m., Oct. 20, there will be live, preshow music by Ben "Swamp Donkey" Brenner in Foster's (tickets are not required for admission to Foster's).

• At 7 p.m., Oct. 25, the performance will include a sign interpreter positioned in front of a special section signing directly for those who need his or her services. Call the box office to book tickets.

• On Oct. 29, following the evening performance, there will be an after-party, with drinks and appearances by cast members in Foster's.

Weekend on 10/12/2017

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