Meet Celimene, a beautiful young widow who throws the juiciest parties in Paris and supports herself through a constant flow of suitors’ cash.
They’re all shallow, these suitors, men in which she has no interest. Then she meets Frank, who is filled with coruscating wit and a disdain for his fellow man. He has no tolerance for superficiality.
And Celimene is intrigued. A roomful of airheads has made it easy for her to evade love since her husband’s death, but Frank presents a different challenge, one that could lead to something true.
Swine Palace will reveal Celimene’s plight when it opens David Ives’ “The School for Lies” on Tuesday, July 22, in the Reilly Theatre. The production follows “Romeo and Juliet” as the second in the company’s Summerfest series.
The same actors were cast in both shows. The casts in this case are members of the LSU Department of Theatre’s Master of Fine Arts program, which also makes up Swine Palace’s resident company of actors.
“We cast these parts during the spring semester,” says George Judy, managing artistic director and director of this show. “We think it’ll be interesting for audiences who saw these same actors in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ last week in a different play next week.”
Ives adapted his comedy from French playwright Moliere’s 17th-century comedy, “The Misanthrope,” which satirizes the hypocrisy of French aristocracy. Alceste is the protagonist who unmasks the shallowness of Celimene’s crowd.
“David Ives named him Frank in his play,” Judy says. “It’s his joke. Everyone else has the French names from Moliere, but Frank is Frank, because he’s so frank.”
Though “The School for Lies” is set when Moliere’s play was first performed in 1666, Ives’ dialogue is filled with contemporary wit.
“It moves fast,” says Tim Moriarty, who plays Frank.
Moriarty, of Seattle, is a 29-year-old, second-year student in the Master’s of Fine Arts program. He’s joined by fellow second-year students Ashley Adams, 23, of Aiken, South Carolina, who plays Celimene, and Maggie McGurn, 27, of Traverse City, Michigan, who plays Celimene’s innocent cousin, Eliante.
“But Eliante doesn’t stay sweet for long,” McGurn says. “I would describe her as a Disney princess who turns into a tiger. She decides that she likes Frank and goes after him.”
McGurn also designed the costumes for both “Romeo and Juliet” and this production.
“It was the first time I’ve ever done anything like that,” she says. “Our costume designers had internships this summer, so I said I would try.”
She has an interesting take on “The School for Lies.” The set coincides with Moliere’s 17th century, but the costumes match Ives’ contemporary dialogue. And following a theatrical tradition, the main character is dressed in red.
Red is the first color that captures the human eye, enhancing Adams’ performance as Celimene, who hosts gossip parties in her home.
“Celimeme copes with her husband’s death by developing this society around her,” Judy says. “These are the jet set and decadent, and they gather at her house to make fun of the common people. ”
And the men are after Celimene who strings them along and takes their money.
“That’s how she supports herself,” Adams says. “But the truth is, she’s being sued by one of the people she’s gossiped about, and she really needs this money.”
This is where Frank enters, tearing down the Celimene’s superficial facade and turning her world upside-down. Now add to that the farcical element of how this love affair has been engineered by a well-placed lie — Celimene believes Frank to be King Louis XIV’s bastard brother.
But reality rules in the end. Will love?
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