Boston Globe – January 7, 2018
By Lenny Megliola GLOBE CORRESPONDENT
WELLESLEY — It’s just by happenstance that the Wellesley College Repertory Theatre is presenting “The Liar” at a time when lying has become a fibbin’ plague in America.
We don’t know whom to believe anymore, from the White House on down. It’s something to get angry about, and we have.
It’s not really a fad. People have been lying forever. It was in the 17th century that Pierre Corneille scripted “The Liar.” The play’s a French farce, made for laughs. This fast-talking liar is named Dorante, a charming young man who, the story goes, is incapable of telling the truth.
Dorante falls in love with a young woman, whom he mistakes for her friend. The lies — and the laughs — come fast and furious.
Marta Rainer of the Wellesley College Theatre Studies Department is directing the play. The irony of the title hasn’t escaped her. “We’re all craving the truth,” she said, “and I think we all need a laugh right now.”
The play opens Jan. 12 at the Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre. Adapted for today by David Ives, the script feels as fresh as the original must have in 1643.
“We have people in the public eye blatantly lying to the public,” said cast member Ariela Nazar-Rosen, who graduated from Wellesley in 2016.
“How much do politicians lie today, and what are the consequences?” asked Angela Bilkic, who graduated in 2015 and is also in the cast.
But fear not, this onstage liar is neither mean-spirited nor a bum. “There’s a likeability about Dorante,” said Dan Prior, who is playing the role. “He’s not lying out of malice or trying to hurt anyone. He likes to be on center stage.”
Why did the director choose this play?
“In a sense it chose me,” said Rainer, who recently moved to Wellesley. “I wanted something that was fun. It has a comic book sensibility. Different types of audiences will find something in it. The actors are excited. It’s all done in verse. Every line has a rhyme.”
There’s no escaping that the production has overtones of current society, giving Rainer a lot to work with. “This play is rife with opportunity. I’m having a ball,” Rainer said.
“I read the play several times before I auditioned,” Prior said. “I love the comedy nitty-gritty and the command of language. It’s wordplay, and the physicality is so important to tell the story.”
Dorante may be overblown with bravado, but Prior takes a different slant. “It’s more that he’s just aspirant. He’s bigger than himself. He shines out. He’s a flawed character, but can he rise from that?”
Bilkic plays Lucrece and Nazar-Rosen Clarice, neither whom Dorante can figure out. Mistaken identity plays a major role here.
“It’s ironic this is called ‘The Liar’ because you can see the truths in people,” Nazar-Rosen said. “With a play like this it’s easy to exaggerate everything.”
As for Clarice, Nazar-Rosen said that “she’s also manipulating. She catches Dorante in his own trap. They do not end up together. She’s engaged, but she’s looking to see what else is out there. I really love this character. It gives me a chance to explore.”
Bilkic’s Lucrece is “upper-middle-class and austere. A shell of a person. But she loosens up. Lucrece reveals what she really wants and who she is. She wants fun and love without restraints. She feels people don’t necessarily marry for love, but she wants to.”
The cast has taken to the play’s rhyming verse. “The language is most interesting,” Bilkic said. “I’ve a fan of Shakespeare. I’ve done Shakespeare. But nothing like this.”
Bilkic embarked on her acting career at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge. Wellesley only heightened her goals. “I realized theater was what I wanted to do.” In the past year she did stage work and short films in New York City.
Nazar-Rosen, just a year out of college, is also pursing a full theater career.
Prior is already a stage veteran. “This show brings me up to 150 since 1991,” he said. “I did ‘Peter Pan’ in kindergarten and never stopped.” He has appeared on numerous local stages, including at Waltham’s Reagle Music Theatre.
Rainer has “toured the world” doing shows she’s written. The gigs have taken her to Russia, Turkey, international festivals, and across the United States.
“I’m happy to bring ‘The Liar’ to a local audience,” she said.
It’s a play that’ll make you laugh. And that’s the truth.
Lenny Megliola can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.