The School for Lies: Twits on parade
John Middleton and Kate Guentzel.
Photo by Petronella Ytsma
Ives, the author of Venus in Fur (which provided heat last winter at the Jungle) and numerous short plays, uses Moliere's The Misantrhope as a foundation here, running the story through another classic playwright (Shakespeare) and adding modern slang and context to the rhyming couplets.
The play satirizes upper-class life in 17th-century Paris, which isn't all that different from life in America in the 21st century. The idle folks gossip endlessly, which can cause a problem because its also a society that sues others for slander at the drop of a hat.
Set over one long and active day, the show centers on Celimene (Kate Guentzel), whose position is threatened by a slander suit brought by a rival. She has a trio of suitors ready for the 1666 Twit of the Year contest and a confidant secretly in love with her cousin, Eliante.
Into this steps Frank (John Middleton), a, ahem, frank talker decked out all in black. He's caustic and honest to a fault, which instantly puts him into conflict with the denizens of Paris.
Ives mines plenty of humor out of the situation, and the game cast is ready for all of the challenges from the script. The company mines the situation for all of the humor within, be it in the deft word play carried by Guentzel and Middleton, the exaggerated mincing and strutting of the suitors (David Beukema, Brandon Bruce, and John Catron) or the weary mood of the observing servant (Skyler Nowinski, playing a pair of similar roles).
The production looks gorgeous, starting with Robin McIntyre's elegant set, moving to Susan E. Mickey's exaggerated costumes, and ending with David Hermann's massive wigs. Rummenie keeps the pace tight, but never so fast that it is hard to follow, and the final twists at the end feel like a natural, if somewhat Shakespearean, conclusion.
20 W. Seventh Pl., St. Paul
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about arts and culture events in Minneapolis & St. Paul and offers you won't hear about anywhere else.