The School for Lies, the first show of Ensemble Theatre Company’s 40th-anniversary season, is an effervescent comedy of manners that brings the satire of famed French playwright Molière into the 21st century. Translated/adapted by David Ives, The School for Lies comments on the social buffoonery of the bourgeois class, rotten with self-involved affectations; gossipy, two-faced sycophancy; and petty retribution at the slightest bruised ego. Directed by Jonathan Fox, Ives’s play inserts sophisticated, sharp-witted language into the entertaining absurdity of Keeping Up with the Kardashians for a boisterous, self-aware comedy.
Frank (Adam Mondschein) has a salty disposition and refuses to follow the rules of social niceties. He meets the equally acerbic widow, Celimene (Jill Van Velzer), and the two begin trading barbs — a practice that has landed both parties in nasty defamation lawsuits. In an attempt to teach them a lesson, mutual acquaintance Philinte (Matt Wolpe) tells Celimene that Frank is the king’s bastard son and has the social standing to nullify her lawsuit. Celimene turns on the charm to garner Frank’s favor; Frank, meanwhile, has learned from Philinte that Celimene is madly in love with him. The two begin a highly ridiculous romance riddled with the comic repercussions of lies, secrets, and misunderstandings. From the garish drag of Celimene’s foppish suitors to the frequently ignored fourth wall to the sassy rhymed-couplet dialogue, The School for Lies commits to good-natured comic absurdity that feels relevant and modern.