I have to admit that I wasn't really looking forward to the performance. I knew that the play is adapted from Moliere's The Misanthrope, and I had decided that it was going to be dark and somewhat grim. (Of course, I haven't actually read The Misanthrope--or any Moliere for that matter--so this was a totally uneducated reaction. A quick look at Wikipedia would have told me that Moliere is known as a comic genius and altered my expectations. ) And I totally missed the fact that the play was written by David Ives, who also wrote the fabulous Venus in Fur that skyrocketed to the top of my list of favorite plays last year. Short story long, my preconceived notions couldn't have been farther from the truth.
|Olivia Williamson/Celimene and|
Matthew Olsen /Frank
Fortuitously, there was a talk back after the show with all of the actors. It was fascinating to hear a bit about the Conservatory and the process of putting this production together. We learned that it is actually easier for actors to memorize rhyming verse than prose, although it's hard to believe that there was anything easy about memorizing that script. Rehearsals began a mere five weeks before opening night, and the actors were "off book" after about a week, which enabled them to work on the flow of the show. With nine actors and constant comings and going onstage, they said this was a huge help.
|Gracie Lee Brown/Arsinoe, Brian Owen/|
Philinte and Andrea Adnoff/Eliante
The students talked about how the show required an ensemble effort and how comfortable they've grown working with each other. One actor made the comparison to a well-oiled machine, and it was quite apt. (As an aside, I spoke separately with Olivia Williamson after the talk-back. She looked so familiar to me that I had to figure out if I'd seen her in something else. It turns out that she played the daughter in the show Painting Churches that I saw at Banyan Theater this summer. She commented that her experiences with the two productions could not have been more different. In The School for Lies, she felt totally comfortable and confident because of her relationship with her fellow actors. In Painting Churches, she portrayed the daughter of a couple who are married in real life and felt like she was playing catch up the whole time.)
I am so looking forward to the rest of the season and wish I didn't have to wait until January to see the next production. The idea was that we would watch the actors grow over the four play series. If the quality of their performances in The School for Lies is the baseline, we are in for some great theater. And did I mention that tickets are less than $30 per show? If I were a bit more clever, I would close with a rhyming couplet a la David Ives. Instead, just consider yourself nudged to check out the Conservatory's performances yourself.