A line in the opening of "The Liar" is just one way the play takes something familiar and adds a twist: "All the world's a lie, and all the men and women merely liars."
The story follows the antics of Dorante, a man who prides himself on being able to lie his way into and out of any situation. When he mistakes the name of one woman for another, Dorante must tap-dance his way past his father and the two women to get what he desires. Written in 1643 by Pierre Corneille and masterfully adapted by David Ives, the script gives a wink to modern audiences without being overly cutesy.
In Henley Street's production, Matthew Mitchell delivers a riveting performance as Dorante. Even while he spins elaborate tales of pomegranates and flotillas, the audience hangs on his every word. Irene Kuykendall and Olivia Luna play his confused love interests, Clarice and Lucrece. Kuykendall gets her fair share of laughs, and Luna explores her character's alternating shy and bold nature well. Kyle Butler is Clarice's foppish suitor, Alcippe, and plays up the more slapstick elements of his character without going over the top.
James Ricks' direction has optimal pacing and comedic timing, and the actors' dialogue flows naturally — not always the easiest thing to do with a play in rhymed verse. Margarette Joyner's costumes are beautiful and well-crafted, and Seamus M. Bourne's spare set fits the show without distracting from the actors on the stage.
To say that Henley's latest creation is an extremely entertaining success is no stretch of the truth. S
Henley Street Theatre's "The Liar" plays at Richmond CenterStage at 600 E. Grace St. through April 28. Call 800-514-3849 or visit henleystreettheatre.org for tickets and information.