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Interview: The Truth About ‘The Liar’

The Denver Center Theatre Company’s first offering of this new season is a modern take on a classic French story. The entire play is in verse, set in period garb, but there are plenty moments of nods to the modern day. To say the play is funny would be a vast understatement. We loved it. We loved it so much we had a few questions that we had to pass along to a couple of the show’s leading performers – Drew Cortese and Janine Serrales – to get their behind the scenes insight into some lingering thoughts on the show.

Almost the entire script is in verse, and most of it with some impressive rhymes. We noticed so many brilliant set ups that we started writing down our favorites (Philum/Asylum/Revile ’em), but we were left wondering what two people in the show found lastingly funny after so much time with the script.

We Asked: What is your favorite rhyme in the script?

JEANINE: After Alcippe (John Michael Marrs) finds out from his friend, Philiste (Jonathan Kaplan) that Dorante has been lying this whole time, the following exchange happens :

Alcippe: I stand in awe!

Philiste : Well don’t forget, Alcippe; He studied law.

I actually think that is the biggest single laugh of every show. Law jokes never get old!

Drew: There’s a wonderful exchange in the final scene of the play between Geronte (Robert Sicular) and Philiste (Jonathan Kaplan) that gets me every single night.

Geronte: Acquainted as you are – and in all candor –

Apprise me all you can of one Philander.

Philiste:               Phil…?

Geronte:              …ander.

I love this line and I think it’s a great example of how Ives’ script, and comedy in general, works.  It’s a comedic line, but it’s not a joke or a punch-line.  But sprinkle in enough of these throughout the evening, and you maintain that comedic tension.

We Asked: How do you think the modernization of this classic changes the relationship between men and women?  (Especially Jeanine, but Drew can chime in): Why do you think Ives chose to move away from Lucrece being totally mute? Do you think that lost an opportunity for great physical comedy?

JEANINE: Well, being that Lucrece was mute in the Corneille script,  Ives choosing to give her a voice is a wonderful way of making her less of a trophy and more of a three dimensional person.  And although getting the opportunity to play her as a total mute would have been soooooo much fun, I do prefer the neurotic, shy person Ives created. Well…maybe Ives didn’t write her as a neurotic, that might’ve been me.

DREW: I agree with Jeanine.  By giving voice to Lucrece, he’s attempted to even the playing field a bit.  Of course, the bulk of the language is still in the gentlemen’s corner, as it tends to be in the majority of classical texts (with a few notable exceptions, of course).  It’s a real testament to the abilities of Jeanine, Amelia Pedlow, and Amy Kersten, to be faced with the challenge of creating full characters when they are forced to work so often in this play off of the line.  But they nail it, and it just puts more pressure on the guys not to screw things up.

JEANINE: That’s so sweet! I think you are just trying to impress Kateri and David.  Smooth operator.

We Asked: How does your personal relationship impact how you interact onstage (if at all)?

DREW: We’re really lucky to have the chance to go to work together everyday doing the thing that we are both so passionate about.  Jeanine is a supremely generous actor, and it makes our exchanges so easy to negotiate because we’re never trying to show up the other person – the goal is always what’s the most interesting choice we can make to allow the story to come across.  I have to remind myself sometimes that I still have to respond to the things she’s doing because, for anyone that’s ever seen her work, it’s easy to get lost in her brilliance.

JEANINE: What…is it my birthday that I’m getting all these compliments?  Very nice.  Drew is an amazing artist. No matter what show I’m doing, I always go to him for advice on my character, he is my go-to resource. So having him in the same room with me is wonderful! He can see what I’m doing(or attempting) and help me achieve (or throw out!) that idea.  I learn by watching him act. He’s incredibly creative, smart and just a joy to be around.  It’s a ton of fun acting together!  And I do have say, I get so proud of him, when people cheer for him.

We Asked: What makes this story especially appealing to men? What makes this story especially appealing to women?

JEANINE: Cleavage.

DREW: Watching a man get on his knees and beg…

We Asked: Some people in our audience were verbally reacting to the piece (saying things like “Oh, God” “No way!”). Does that ever get to you? How do you respond when you hear things like that in such an intimate space? Go with it or ignore it?

DREW: The rules of this play allow for certain characters to interact directly with the audience, and so we try and take advantage of any opportunity that the audience might give us on the night.  During one performance, a woman repeated, full-voiced, my line about the blushing dominatrix in the epilogue.  I looked up in her direction and shot back “That’s right” and it got the whole house laughing together – not because my come-back was so clever, but because all of us in the theatre had shared that experience and acknowledged that something outside of the norm had happened.  As an actor, you live for those moments.

Theater He Said She SaidFor a full history and plot synopsis of the original play, The Liar, see the wikipedia article. The Liar plays through October 16 at the Space Theatre in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Click the banner above for tickets and more information.


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