Back to Stage

Theater Review: The motormouthed farce of "The School for Lies"

True or false at Working Class Theater Northwest

"The School for Lies" is a harmless re-creation by David Ives, comic playwright extraordinaire, produced by Working Class Theater Northwest in Tacoma. Photo credit: Kate Lick

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

We're all intimately familiar with the sort of boorish character that lets every insulting thought that passes through his mind fly out at inappropriate times, only to have him fall back on the supposedly exonerating excuse that he was "just being honest." Is it better to be truthful to the point of alienation than to hang on to your friends by being duplicitous? Is it possible to rise through the ranks of high society and be honest at the same time?

These questions are raised frequently and fervently by The School for Lies, a motormouthed farce based on Moliere's comedy of manners, The Misanthrope, staged by Tacoma nonprofit theater Working Class Theater Northwest. The play explores the hypocrisies of both casual liars and the righteously honest - a selfish lot, both parties, using the ills of society as a way to justify their bad behaviors.

Set in 17th century France, The School for Lies finds a visiting Frank (Luke Amundson) clashing with the gluttonous and backstabbing upper-crust. Frank is all id, not keen to let the formality of even a white lie slip past. In a time when everyone is in the business of persecuting one another for public slights, Frank quickly finds himself under threat of lawsuit for harshly critiquing Oronte's (Bruce Story-Camp) poem.

Without getting too deep into the manic plot of The School For Lies, let's say that the philosophical divide gets cemented when Frank meets Celimene (Mariesa Bus), a socialite who delights in spreading toxic gossip and talking mad shit about people behind their backs. Unfortunately, while all of the actors are remarkably game and committed to the tongue-twisting script (all performed in rhyming verse), it's around here where the play finds its first stumbling block.

Though presented in period attire, The School for Lies adds in modern anachronisms, which more often than not stick out like sore thumbs. Indeed, most of the problems stem from the script, which tends to fumble trying to shoehorn in these modern asides - most notably an unnecessary rap number that lets the air out of the room. I can't quite figure why the author, David Ives, felt the need to distract from what is otherwise a perfectly relevant and worthwhile concept - and that he did it by trying to wink at the present-day audience is even more puzzling.

Still, there's much to admire, here. The performances are immensely energetic without becoming cloying, especially Story-Camp and Robert McConkey (as two of Celimene's suitors), and from Bus and Amundson as the bickering leads. Additionally, in a play full of quips and one-liners, the funniest moment may come for those who are aware of the story of The Misanthrope. The one major change that Ives makes to his source material is a hilarious and self-aware moment that really does bring the 17th century to modern day.

The School for Lies is not without its faults, but the pacing is such that you never really linger on anything problematic too long before the torrent of language carries you on into another bombastic and wryly satiric set piece.

THE SCHOOL FOR LIES, 8 p.m., Thursday-Sunday, through Sept. 27, Working Class Theater Northwest, 733 Commerce, Tacoma, $10-$12 at or door,

comments powered by Disqus

Site Search