Adults who savor an undertone of saucy romance with their absurdist humor may appreciate the Next Stage Inc.’s upcoming offering: David Ives’ “The School for Lies,” a high-tempo re-imagining of French playwright Molière’s satirical comedy “Le Misanthrope.”
The group will present the play, set in 1920s Paris, through July 27 at State Theatre.
Producing artistic directors Jay Shuchter and Mary Skees first watched the performance in New York City, Skees said.
“Audiences can expect surprise, delight, a fast ride,” she said. “Jay and I floated out of the theater when we saw it in New York, and we think our audiences will, too. Note that the material has adult content and language. It’s a bit naughty.”
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The adventures center around Celimene, a beautiful young widow known for her satiric tongue. Surrounded by unsuitable suitors, Celimene has given up on love since her husband died — until Frank appears. A traveler from England known for his own biting wit and dim view of human nature, Frank turns Celimene’s world upside-down, taking on her suitors, matching her wit and teaching her how to live again, Skees said.
The nine vivid characters’ agenda-riddled interactions — and their “waterfall of witty repartee” — will leave an impression, she said.
Caitlin Osborne, a 10-year member of the Next Stage and the show’s leading lady, said audiences are in for a comical treat.
“Audiences should come expecting to laugh and enjoy the characters trading witty insults,” she said. “Plus, they will see an incredible cast. Director John Hrushka put this group together over a year ago, and he managed to snag the best of State College’s local actors. Audiences who have been around awhile are going to recognize everyone.”
Osborne said she has enjoyed working with familiar colleagues as she took on the role of flirtatious and quick-witted Celimene.
“As an actor, it has been so much fun to work with this particular group,” she said. “Between the cast and crew, I’ve worked on over 30 plays with these folks. It’s like a ‘best of’ for my years in State College.”
Aside from humor and charm, the play offers a sunny outlook, even if it takes extreme measures to achieve it, she said.
“Celimene would call this play ‘diverting,’ and it’s certainly comedic,” she said. “But I consider it a romance, in the classical sense. It is not just a love story, but an adventure where everything comes out perfectly in the end, even if it takes ridiculous coincidences and a heavy dose of deus ex machina.”
Those illogical lines and shenanigans, laid out in rhymed verse, are part of the pleasure, Shuchter said.
“I don’t go along with the majority labeling of Ives’ style,” he said. “I think he’s more a surrealist, which I define as one who takes a non-real premise and follows it out to its illogical conclusion.”
The July shows will be the first local performance of the play, though the Next Stage performed Ives’ work a couple years ago with an eight-play package called “Time Flies Like an Arrow; Fruit Flies Like a Banana.” Those performances also were directed by Hrushka.
Though it’s all in fun — and everything concludes happily — guests still will need to keep up with the inventive back and forth to really enjoy the Parisian escape, Shuchter said.
“Audiences can expect to enter a world in which even the dumbest characters are somehow able to speak in perfectly rhymed couplets,” he said. “So relax, listen, and pay attention, because you might think you know what’s coming.”