Review: Le Menteur (Théâtre Français de Toronto)

Photo of Le MenteurThéâtre français de Toronto’s new play Le Menteur is a fast-paced, hilarious romp

There’s lying and then there’s lying. Théâtre français de Toronto‘s Le Menteur playing at the Berkeley Street Theatre gives a tongue-in-cheek lesson to its audience on how to spin a tale.

And if you want a fun time at the theatre, this is one lesson I guarantee you’ll want to see for yourselves.

Dorante (Nico Racicot) moves to Paris and immediately begins disassembling as he builds a name for himself by lying. When a woman, Clarice (Valérie Descheneaux) catches his eye, the liar starts a courtship full of hot air.

Throw in mistaken identities and a long-suffering servant and you have the perfect comedy.

While the content is dated–playwright Pierre Corneille was writing in the seventeenth century–I think you’d be hard-pressed to not get carried away in the hijinks.

Dressed up in a light, modern glam, including face paint, neon lights, and punk rock scene changes, Le Menteur revelled in its depraved moral centre.

Director Joël Beddows doesn’t bother to make the characters better people and he doesn’t try to hide the moral failings. The one moment of heart, wherein Dorante’s father discovers his son’s deceptions and confronts him is quickly subverted, as Dorante reveals his tears are nothing more than laughter.

We’re not meant to sympathize here, Beddows knows the character’s a jerk, and he let’s the story go where it needs to without trying to excuse or hide the characters.

I imagine hiding anything with such a larger-than-life cast would be hard. Racicot as Dorante seemed determined to eat the scenery, flouncing across the stage, oozing charm and confidence. Set against the straight man Cliton, played by an earnest–but just as charmingly corrupt–François Macdonald, you have a great comedy duo.

Meanwhile Descheneaux and Shiong-En Chan playing her friend Lucrèce get their own moments of sly humour as they fight, passive-aggressively, over Dorante’s advances.

There are a lot of characters, and a lot of people on stage at once. Beddows never loses sight of them. The attention to detail in the direction is absolutely incredible. Somehow, you can be watching the scene play out front and centre, even as miniature flirtations run their course just beyond the main action.

I don’t know how, but my attention was never split for a moment from the main storyline.

And I really want to highlight Chan’s work as a virtually silent figure in the first act. That woman was hilarious and she rarely did more than wave or react to the events around her. With a stuttering hand wave, she got a laugh from the audience.

Le Menteur is a fast-paced, hilarious romp with no illusions about happy endings or good people. It’s amazing, a show down with a lot of verve and fun.

Trust me, this isn’t something I’d lie about.

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Photo of Nico Racicot, Nabil Traboulsi, and Alex Côté by Marc Lemyre

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