Feb. 24 2014 12:00 AM

Couplets reign in deconstruction of 'The Misanthrope'

Dana Hooley, Jonathan McMurtry and Jessica John in "The School For Lies."
Photo courtesy of North Coast Repertory Theatre

Costumes and couplets: That about sums up North Coast Rep's The School for Lies, which opened Saturday night in Solana Beach. Now, I've got to tell you: A couple of couplets goes a long, long way. The entire script by playwright David Ives, adapting mischievously Moliere's The Misanthrope, is written in rhyming verse. You find yourself waiting, waiting, waiting for them, sometimes with anticipation, sometimes with a measure of dread. Either way, it makes for a long sit, in spite of the play's sight gags, well-intended silliness and, of course, those costumes (design by Allina Bokovikova): flouncy dresses and gigantic wigs and pantaloons. Lots of makeup, too.

The drawing-room story (set in 1666) about the effect of one brazen truth-teller on a society of insouciant truth-benders plays second fiddle to the visuals-a suggestion of cleavage here, an unignorable wart there. The cast is clearly having a ball: Jessica John and Dana Hooley, in particular, among the women, and as three fops, Phil Johnson, David McBean and Jason Heil are free to boldly go wherever they can get big laughs. Old pro Jonathan McMurtry is on hand, too, as always to show 'em how it's done.

'Twas an interesting moment Saturday night when the lights went out during Act 2. For a second or two, the actors (and audience) were plunged into darkness. Then things continued under house lights before technicalities were cleared righted. That left chaos only on the stage, where in this romp, it's supposed to be.

North Coast Repertory Theatre's The School for Lies continues through March 16.


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