This Liar is Full of Lies and Laughs

by Molly Gilmore

Theater Artists Olympia’s The Liar, opening March 22 at OlyTheater, is filled with lies, contradictions and, according to those involved with the production, laughs. “It’s hilarious,” said director Tom Sanders. “It’s really funny.”

Dorante (Aaron Gotzon) concocts elaborate lies in an attempt to establish himself in Paris and win the heart of Clarice (Teresita Brimms) in Theater Artists Olympia’s The Liar. Photo courtesy of Theater Artists Olympia.

The 2010 comedy, adapted by David Ives from a 17th-century French farce by Pierre Corneille, concerns a charming young man, Dorante, whose greatest talent is spinning elaborate lies and whose servant finds lying impossible. “Dorante tells the most ridiculous, over-the-top lies that people in the play nevertheless buy,” said Aaron Gotzon, who plays Dorante. Adding to the humor are mistaken identities, including a set of twins who seem straight out of “The Comedy of Errors.”

“The play is supposed to be set in 1643, although the characters contradict that left and right,” Sanders said. “This play is not to be taken very seriously. They talk about the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Élysées. None of that was around in 1643. They even mention a Corvette.”

As those references reveal, the play is set in Paris, but the characters often mispronounce the common French words that pepper the dialog. And though the entire play — like the original — is written in iambic pentameter, the rhyming couplets are sometimes started by one character and interrupted by another. “It’s a very modern translation,” Gotzon said. “There’s a lot of wordplay, and the rhyme and the pace of the verse keep everything moving.”

So changed is Ives’ Liar from Corneille’s 1644 Le Menteur that the adaptation won the 2011 Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play. Ives calls Menteur “one of the world’s great comedies” yet didn’t hesitate to tinker with it. “You have to create a play for today,” he said in an interview with Theater Talk [below.] “The shelf life of a play is two weeks. It’s about the same as a box of cereal.”

“It’s absurd in a way,” Sanders said. “It’s not an absurdist play. It’s actually a straight farcical comedy.” That said, it’s neither a slamming-doors-style farce nor strictly a classic French one in the mold of Molière.

Sanders, for his part, is lavish in his praise of Ives, a prolific playwright who was nominated for a Tony for Venus in Fur. The director first encountered Ives’ work in 2014, when he helmed a Tacoma production of the playwright’s School for Lies, adapted fromMolière’s The Misanthrope. “I had a blast with it,” Sanders said. “People were very impressed, because it was just fun. … I’ve had The Liar on the back burner ever since.”

“Fun” — often preceded by “really” and “very” — is a word both he and Gotzon used liberally when talking about the show.  The actor, who moved to Olympia two years ago and was recently seen in Animal Fire Theatre’s 2023 Measure for Measure, is having a ball spinning elaborate lies on stage.

“It’s fun,” he said. “I often get cast in the goofy parts, the character roles, not often the romantic leads. In this case, the goofy character part and the romantic lead are one and the same character. Dorante is very high energy. He’s very silly. He’s very flamboyant. Those are all parts of my personality that I like to bring out in a character, so he suits me pretty well.”

Playing the women who get Dorante’s attention — though he’s not clear on who’s who — are Teresita Brimms, who made her Olympia theater debut in TAO’s recent Poe Nocturne, and Andrea Gordon, featured in Olympia Little Theatre’s 2022 The Originals. Ben Stahl (recently seen in Lakewood Playhouse’s The Giver) plays Dorante’s unwaveringly truthful servant, and Jesse Morrow (who’s been busy of late with TAO’s The Mystery Plays and Olympia Family Theater’s The Lightning Thief) plays not one but two maids. Also in the cast are Chris Cantrell, Jeremy Hollen and Sherman Jenne.

The Liar

7:30 p.m. March 22, 23, 29 and 30 and April 5 and 6 and 2 p.m. March 24 and 31 and April 7

OlyTheater, Capital Mall, 625 Black Lake Blvd., Olympia



Theater Talk | David Ives, Playwright, ‘The Liar‘ | 2017 |
Writer David Ives talks about his prolific and wide-ranging playwriting career, including his new comedy at the Classic Stage Company, The Liar, loosely adapted from Le Menteur by Pierre Corneille. [26:45 minutes]
Skip to content