Not Gonna Lie, “Lies and Liars” is Alright

August 17, 2009 at 5:46 pm 1 comment

REVIEW:

“Lies and Liars”

Theatre Seven at Chicago Dramatists

Co-written and directed by Margot Bordelon and Cassy Sanderson

Thru August 30th (Tickets available here)

2.5 Stars (out of four)3415fe

We, as a species, love to lie.  I’ve lied three times already this morning.  Lying and liars infiltrates all parts of our lives—work, family, and love.  Because of this, it has been a favorite device of writers of all genres.  Theatre Seven continues this tradition with a corporate world twist.  Co-conceived and co-directed by Margot Bordelon and Cassy Sanderson, Lies and Liars introduces us to the inner machinations of a bizarre company, ALCOR, which keeps tabs on all lies ever told.  A fascinating start, but the writer/director pair are unable to break any new ground with their concept.

The play follows a freshly-hired janitor, Ben (Brad Smith), as he learns the ins and outs of ALCOR.  He quickly fines that ALCOR is prone to the problems of any office: deceitful employees, bosses with grudges, and plenty of office romance to go around.  Through some office hijinks, he is confronted with his own file, and the ability to know every lie ever told to him.

The plot has a few loose ends, and the attempt to tie them all together is a bit weak.  For example, unauthorized file-reading is the cardinal sin of ALCOR, yet many of the workers admit to reading files but still have a job.  There’s not much of an attempt at security; the only barrier to reading a file is a filing cabinet.  Plus, how the company discovers every lie told is underdeveloped.  A couple of field workers doesn’t seem like enough.  I would think you would need millions of cameras and bugging devices, as well as mind-reading abilities (maybe brain microchips?).  However, a company like ALCOR seems just a little far-fetched, so I wasn’t very disturbed by unexplained details.

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Theatre Seven does have some awesome story-telling tricks up their sleeve, though.  The movement work in the piece is fun and captures the quick-pace of the business world (a la “West Wing”).  The choreography is even more pronounced when Ben cracks open his file and is thrown into a savage exploration of lies, complete with guide in a pith helmet.  The implementation of video and sound design is also brilliantly done.  The play begins with a tongue-in-cheek video orientation of ALCOR, and various projections pop up throughout the play.  CJ Arellano’s video wizardry combines starchy middle-management slogans and symbols with a goofy millennial sensibility.  He is matched by Christopher LaPorte’s elevator music-inspired soundscapes.  All of the design is well-utilized by the staging; everything syncs up beautifully.

There is an intense energy that radiates from the entire cast.  Smith handles the lead decently, choosing to underplay rather than overact.  This is good, because some of the other actors become parodies rather than believable characters, especially Marjorie Armstrong and Cyd Blakewell.  Not to say the two aren’t committed, every little keystroke or page-turn is in character, but the whole character ends up coming off as one-dimensional.  Jennifer Waldrip and Brian Stojak (who looks uncannily like a young Dan Akroyd) are well-grounded as Ben’s janitorial coworkers.  The other performances are all decent, but sometimes the purpose of certain characters is never truly revealed.

Most of my issues are with the script.  I don’t think Bordelon and Sanderson set out to do anything immensely profound, considering the inherent humor in the writing.  After a few scenes, however, the entire plot of the play can be predicted.  Without the earnestness of the ensemble and the flair of the choreography and design the piece would be utterly boring.  Luckily, this isn’t the case, and Theatre Seven’s work is definitely entertaining, if a bit fluffy.

–Barry Eitel

More information can be found at theatreseven.org.

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Entry filed under: Reviews.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Eileen  |  August 17, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    I loved this review! Very thorough and delightful!

    Reply

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