Friday, 20 April 2018

A Sweet Liar: Theatre Francais de Toronto's Le Menteur/The Liar

The tag line is "Don't believe a word he says", but you can believe me, Le Menteur/The Liar is a fun way to spend a night at the theatre.

(left to right) Nico Racitot, François MacDonald, Alex Coté
Le Menteur/The Liar by Pierre Corneille

Synopsis: NEW TO PARIS, YOUNG DORANTE is immediately lifted into a world of gallantry and prestige. Intoxicated by this new environment, he invents a fictitious identity. But a misunderstanding about two young women’s names, Lucrèce and Clarice, together with his father’s wish that he marry one of the two, leads to a tangled web, in which truth and lies are lost in fantasy. (Source:

My Thoughts: There is much to enjoy about Théatre Français de Toronto's (TFT) production of Le Menteur/The Liar by Pierre Corneille. Full of witticisms delivered in the French style of its day, the rhyming alexandrine couplets are an added layer to the outrageous lies delivered by Doronte. To get the full impact, it helps to understand a bit of French, but even those reading the surtitles will be engaged by the play as a whole since the flowing beats of the language are reflected in the frolicking pace of the action  as directed by Joel Beddows.

Nico Racitot's Dorante holds appeal to modern audiences with his bleached hair, trendy boots and bright, hipster suit, its one shoulder cape and florid material nodding to past centuries. Racitot delivers lies with such readiness and silkiness that it's hard not to be impressed by his character's mendacious abilities. Even side-kick, Cliton, played with scene-stealing timing by François MacDonald, often falls for the fabrications until corrected by Dorante. Trying to be the voice of reason, Cliton cautions Doronte from time to time but his warnings are never embraced. 

Shiong-en Chan Lucrèce (foreground), 
Valérie Descheneaux, Clarice  (background)
Having mistaken the names of Lucrèce and Clarice, Doronte feels impervious to the impact of his falsehoods, creating confusion and minor conflicts between the two women. Valérie Descheneaux shines bright as Clarice and her exchanges with Doronte (he thinks she is Lucrèce) sparkle. Unfortunately for Shiong-en Chan, she is in the shadow of Descheneaux, and her role of Lucrèce is somewhat muted.

Guy Mignault, former Artistic Director of TFT, plays Doronte's loving father, Géronte, who is made into a bit of a bumbler thanks to the multiple misdirections of his lying son. In today's society Géronte would be called a lawnmower parent, over-indulging the whims of his son in an effort to arrange his matrimonial success. Playwright, Pierre Corneille, mainly known for his tragedies (El Cid) inserts a bit of drama into the text with a notable exposition that is delivered with poignancy by the experienced Mignault.

Costumes by Melanie McNeill are cleverly realized. Think millennials dipping into a vintage tickle trunk of 17th century clothing and hacking their finds for the 21st century. I wish I could also give accolades to her set design, but I found the opening and closing of transparent curtains unnecessary.  I read them as an exchange for the usual farcical doors and/or a manifestation of the barriers created by lying, but their use was a distraction to an already good play. I also found the inclusion of karaoke microphones a dispensable tool, as the costumes are such a brilliant way of modernizing the play's youthful characters and their antics.

Rounding out the cast is Alex Cote as Clarice's "fiance", Alcippe; Inka Malovic in the dual role of  Isabelle/Sabine, and Nabil Traboulsi as Philiste.

Valérie Descheneaux, Clarice (foreground)
Inka Malovic, Isabelle/Sabine (background)
Le Menteur/The Liar by Pierre Corneille
Remaining Performances: April 20 - 22, 2018*

*English with French Surtitles 
April 20, 21 (matinee and evening performances
*French only: April 22

Presented by Théatre Français de Toronto
Location: Berkeley Street Theatre 
26 Berkeley Street, Toronto

Complete Details:

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