THEATER REVIEW: “The Liar”

David Ives is a funny guy, whether writing crazy little pieces like “Words, Words, Words” (in which three chimpanzees try to write “Hamlet”) or rewriting an old comic classic.

Recently, San Diegans were treated to the very funny “School For Lies,” his version of Molière’s “Le Misanthrope,” a farce in period costume.

Now Scripps Ranch Theatre offers “The Liar,” Ives’ “translaptation” of Pierre Corneille’s “Le Menteur,” which was in turn inspired by 17th-century Spanish playwright Juan Ruiz de Alarcón’s “La Verdad Sospechosa.”

Got that? Never mind; Ives translated and adapted the Corneille play. The result – “The Liar” – is so engaging and hilarious that the two and a half hour runtime flies by. It plays through April 27, wonderfully directed by Robert May.

The plot is simple: Dorante (Ryan Andrews) is charming but mendacious. He seems, in fact, to be incapable of telling the truth. He arrives in Paris in 1643 and immediately engages a manservant – Cliton (Steve Smith), on the other side of the truth spectrum. Cliton cannot lie.

“Leave complications to our hero,” counsels Cliton in the introductory comments, “a lying genius – if a moral zero.”

If you detected the rhyme and are suspicious of poetry, fear not: though the play is written more or less in iambic pentameter (da-DUM, da-DUM, etc.), you won’t have any problem catching the drift. This is iambic pentameter by way of Ogden Nash – playful, silly and not at all stuffy or difficult.

Dorante first falls for the lovely and (perhaps not coincidentally) wealthy Clarice (Taliesen Rose), who gives as good as she gets in the put-down department. And she’s already secretly engaged to Alcippe (Steve Hohman), who can’t seem to set a date.

Clarice’s constant companion is Lucrece (Rhianna Basore), bright and pretty but less successful in the beau department (maybe it’s the glasses).

There’s another twosome – Lucrece’s vivacious maid Isabelle and her dour twin sister Sabine, who serves Clarice. Both are played by Denae Steele.

Alcippe hangs out with his buddy Philiste (Jarret Addleman), he of the pink spats. His eye is on Sabine.

And there’s Dorante’s dear old dad Geronte (Tim West), trying desperately to marry off his mendacious son, with disappointing results.

You can probably guess that mistaken identities are afoot, along with Dorante’s increasingly baroque lies.

Andrews anchors the fine cast with assurance and great humor. Smith is great with facial expressions, and a fine foil for Andrews.

Rose is lovely as Clarice; Basore smart and sassy as Lucrece. Steele is a hoot as both maidservants.

Hohman and Addleman amuse as Alcippe and Philiste, and West lights up the stage with his hilarious interpretation of Geronte.

The plot is silly, but who cares? This masterpiece of mistaken identity and deliberate fabrication is loaded with funny lines, even if some of them are a tad tortured: “Champs-Elysees, my friend, lies that-a-way/unless the Louvre has moovred since yesterday.”

And as for all that lying: well, as Dorante puts it (but not in consecutive lines), “The unimagined life is not worth living....Now get thee forth and multip-lie.”

The details

Scripps Ranch Theatre production of “The Liar” plays through April 27, 2014 at the Legler Benbough Theatre at Alliant International University, 9783 Avenue of Nations.

Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.

Tickets: (858) 578-7728 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.