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Review: The School for Lies (The Artistic Home)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: The School for Lies (The Artistic Home)

Deft staging, acting of Molière adaptation is well worth a visit

Review: The School for Lies (The Artistic Home)

Review by Catey Sullivan

penned The School for Lies more than 350 years ago, but in ' insouciant, gleefully anachronistic reboot, the satire still glitters and cuts like fine-cut diamonds. The rhyming couplets zing throughout The Artistic Home's deft staging of Ives' translated adaptation, as a royal court's worth of lovers, liars and scoundrels preen, pose and expose the hypocrisy of the pampered elite.

Review: The School for Lies (The Artistic Home)
Everything in The School for Lies is anchored in musicality - the language, the movement and the plot's constant back-and-forth cat-and-mouse games of sexual pursuit. Director Kathy Scambiatterra has a canny ear for Ives' rapid-fire zingers, and her cast deploys them like expertly aimed arrows. This is a show where the blocking is as rhythmic as the language, right down to a tango that's a hilariously apt vertical expression of the horizontal desire.

The plot is a glorious tangle that's as clever as it is preposterous. Frank (the name is no accident) is a blunt-speaking misanthrope who despises posers, superficiality and the inanities of pop culture. He's honest to a fault, refusing to flatter bad poets or flirtatious ladies. If he lived today, Frank would be the guy bloviating against man buns, artisanal anything, Cats and the sort of culture that allows such things to thrive. In the 1666 Paris of School for Lies , he's the equivalent of a bull in a china shop, refusing to indulge the carefully cultivated affectations of courtly manners and verbally eviscerating anyone who strikes him as insincere, stupid or a poser. (Which is to say: Pretty much everyone.)

As Frank ( Mark Pracht) makes his disgust for all and sundry known, the ladies of the court find his bad boy sneering irresistible. Celimene ( Annie Hogan) is beset by a defamation lawsuit, accused of being a slanderous gossip and facing the possibility of ruin. Court proceedings notwithstanding, she makes time to banter with Frank - and with her frenemy Arsinoe ( Devon Carson). Hogan and Carson are positively delicious together: When they go mano a mano (so to speak), it's as if there's electricity crackling through the air as each woman reads the other in a verbal smackdown worthy of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France.

Review: The School for Lies (The Artistic Home)
Review: The School for Lies (The Artistic Home)

Also bewitched by Frank's misanthropic bluster is Eliante (Brookelyn Hebert), a bobble-headed blonde with kewpie doll eyes, a rose-bud mouth and an intelligence level that stops somewhere between the ground floor and the mezzanine. Hebert makes Eliante a confection of a character, all lightness and pink and easily carried off.

Scambiatterra's leading men are also in fine fettle. Julian Hester's Philante is part budding rock star, part noble gallante and part peacockish fop. Hester opens the show, and his facility with those crucial opening lines starts things off with impressive elan. He speaks couplets as if they were his native language, and his ability to make lacy purple pantaloons look dashing gives the character a sexuality that transcends rigid gender binaries.

Review: The School for Lies (The Artistic Home)

As Frank, Pracht snarls and sneers with the authenticity of a punk rocker trapped at a Lawrence Welk Show taping. And when Frank unveils his big secret in the show's climactic moments, it comes as a surprise. Without indulging in spoilers, we'll add that the big reveal is handled brilliantly by Scambiatterra - the moment is as hilarious as it is audacious.

Set designer Elyse Balogh has created a drawing room that captures the over-the-top luxury of wealthy Parisians circa 1666 while also referencing the play's contemporary spin - bonus points for matching the faux-zebra bar finish with the faux-zebra candles in the candelabra. Zach Wagner 's costume design pays homage to the frippery of the ultra-rich in 17th century France, while also giving everything a slightly surreal, modern edge. Celimene's towering hair, for example, is festooned with trendy sunglasses. It's a look that matches the text - an homage to the original with an overlay of 21st century fads.

Not everything works perfectly: The first time a tray of canapés goes flying, it's amusing. The second time, it's indulgent. The third time, it's simply tedious and around the 5th time one might wish the beleaguered servant would just leave the hors d'oeuvres in the kitchen. And a few of the supporting cast members overact, taking an already over-the-top show a bit too far over. These, however, are mostly quibbles. As it was in 1666, The School for Lies remains well worth attending.

Review: The School for Lies (The Artistic Home)

The School for Lies continues through August 13th at The Artistic Home, 1376 W. Grand (map), with performances Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays & Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 3pm. Tickets are $28-$32, and are available by phone (866-811-4111) or online through (check for availability of ). More information at (Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes, includes a 15-minute intermission)

Devon Carson (Arsinoe), (Basque, DuBois), Brookelyn Hebert (Eliante), Julian Hester (Philante), Annie Hogan (Celimene), Averis I. Anderson (Acaste), Ted James (Clitander), Mark Pracht (Frank), Todd Wojcik (Orante), Victoria Hines (understudy, Celimene), Molly Carr (understudy, Eliante), Brant Carriker (understudy Oronte), Stephen Bromfield (understudy Clitander), Evan Simpson (understudy Philinte), Jenna Steege (understudy Arsinoe), Andrew Pierce (understudy Basque/Dubois), Joshua Volkers (understudy Frank), Zach Wziontka (understudy Acaste).

behind the scenes

Kathy Scambiatterra (director), Elyse Balogh (scenic design), Zach Wagner (costume design), (lighting design), Joseph Cerqua (sound design, original music), Kayla Adams (assistant director), Madeline Lyons (stage manager), Alex Hutson (technical director), Tyler Russell (assistant stage manager), Jen Dorman (graphic design), Wilfredo Rivera (tango choreography), Jamere Jackson (rap coaching), , (photos)

Tags: 17-0702, Alex Hutson, Andrew Pierce, Annie Hogan, Artistic Home, Averis I. Anderson, Brant Carriker, Brave Lux, Brookelyn Hebert, Cat Wilson, Catey Sullivan, Chicago Theater, Devon Carson, Elyse Balogh, Evan Simpson, Jamere Jackson, Jen Dorman, Jenna Steege, Joe Mazza, Joseph Cerqua, Joshua Volkers, Julian Hester, Kathy Scambiatterra, Kayla Adams, Madeline Lyons, Mark Pracht, Moliere, Molly Carr, post, Reid Coker, Stephen Bromfield, Ted James, The Aristic Home, Todd Wojcik, Tyler Russell, Victoria Hines, Wilfredo Rivera, Zach Wagner, Zach Wziontka

Category: 2017 Reviews, Adaptation, Artistic Home, Catey Sullivan, Molière

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