When I was growing up, I was taken to many Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, which, aside from the clever and classical ditties, were bound together by those silly Seinfeld-esque plot twists of misunderstandings and mistaken identities that always played out in a circular twist that somehow led back to something you always knew in the first place. Something like that. But what I've learned in the years since is that those elements are the deep roots of all comedy and perhaps all life, as well. I'm guessing that Denver Center Theatre Company artistic director Kent Thompson was thinking about that kind of purity of genre when he chose The Liar ― a comic lodestone by Pierre Corneille that's been adapted, in verse, by playwright David Ives ― to open the DCTC's season.
But then, I decided to ask him. The key to what makes it all work, it turns out, is the quality of the adaptation by a very brilliant playwright in his own right.
He's turned a play that was good and fun and transformed into something that will be absolutely hilarious, Thompson says of Ives. And he's done that by really mining the compulsive liar in action: The character just can't stop lying and making up stories. He also stays true to classical verse and introduces all the anachronistic references and words, and that has a startlingly funny effect on you. I think it's great to start with a farce, and it's great that this one is such a wonderful hybrid of contemporary and classical elements. What's really fun about it is that when the lights come up, people think it's a French comedy set in the seventeenth century. But ten minutes later, they realize that it isnt that at all. A strong and very funny cast, Thompson adds, seals the deal: We will fail unless people laugh their hearts out.
Prepare to split your sides: The story of a man who, well, can't stop lying, The Liar continues daily except Mondays through October 16 in the Space Theatre at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Admission ranges from $35 to $57; go to www.denvercenter.org or call 303-893-4100.
Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 1:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 1:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Thursdays, 6:30 p.m. Starts: Sept. 16. Continues through Oct. 16, 2011