Chicago Shakespeare’s Brilliant THE SCHOOL FOR LIES Shows Ives’ ‘Translaptation’ Genius

Ben Carlson (Frank) and Deborah Hay (Celimene) dance a love tango in
Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s The School for Lies. Photo by Liz Lauren

From the moment you walk into the theatre proper at Chicago Shakes you know are in for a experience like no other. The grand parlor in which David Ives’ new adaptation of Molière’s The Misanthrope takes place is visually stunning, with a massive hovering chandelier that would make the Phantom jealous.

Flawlessly directed by Barbara Gaines and with a wildly competent cast that effortlessly handles Ives’ rapid fire dialogue, The School For Lies is a modern day masterpiece.

As with its parent The Misanthrope (or the Cantankerous Lover), The School For Lies farcically examines our cultural propensity to make others think we are something more than we actually are. As Molière’s two prior works, Tartuffe and Don Juan were mutilated by the French government, The Misanthrope has been said to be his retaliation to those critics. Hence, references to being sued in chancery because of a critical pan is ripe in both the original and adapted piece. Ives’ updated script mirrors that of the piece’s creator and in today’s social media environment, keeps this 346 year old work as relevant as the day it was penned.

Much of the success of this production is levied at the hand of the this stellar cast. As is the case with the genre of farces, they are innately ensemble pieces and School For Lies is a perfect example. Each actor has such a well defined character that when they are all together, it is like watching the finals at Wimbledon, with the serves and volleys of wordplay expertly delivered.

Heidi Kettenring (Eliante) is wooed by Sean Fortunato (Philinte): Photo by: Liz Lauren

Ben Carlson plays Frank, for whom all this mischievousness begins while Sean Fortunato’s Philinte trumps the lie getting Deborah Hay (Célimène) and Heidi Kettenring (Éliante) to fall in love (or lust) with the same man. Judith-Marie Bergan as the caddy Arsinoe channels Alexis Carrington while Greg Vinkler’s flamboyant Oronte brings Paul Lynde to mind. Paul Slade Smith (Clitander) and Kevin Gudahl (Acaste) round out the trio of forlorn lovers. Samuel Taylor as Dubois and Basque is the most fun of all to watch and his dual characterizations are infectious.

(Left to right) Kevin Gudahl (Acaste), Greg Vinkler (Oronte) and Paul Slade Smith (Clitander) Photo by Liz Lauren.

Designer Daniel Ostling simple but opulent set allows plenty space for the actors move, which also perfectly complements Susan E. Mickey’s glorious costumes along with Melissa Veal’s phenomenal wig and makeup design, which are all expertly lit by Philip S. Rosenberg.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s The School for Lies runs through January 20, 2013 in CST’s Courtyard Theater. Tickets are $48–$78, with special discounts available for groups of 10 or more. All patrons receive a 40% discount on guaranteed parking in Navy Pier garages. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Box Office at 312.595.5600 or visit the Theater’s website at www.chicagoshakes.com/school. For calendar information, please visit www.theatreinchicago.com