“School For Lies:” Edgy Doctor Seuss for the Modern Individual

The cast of “School For Lies” poses for a group photo before a performance.

Do you love rhyming couplets but have trouble connecting with Shakespeare? Ever wish soap operas included more satirical social commentary? RWU Theatre has the show for you. “School For Lies,” playwright David Ives’ take on Molière’s 17th-century comedy “Le Misanthrope,” debuted at the Barn on Friday, Feb. 24 to much laughter and applause.

The play takes place in the home of the beautiful French widow Celimene, a sharp-witted gossip who surrounds herself with simpering suitors and pretty gifts. Her carefree ways are challenged by a slander case slated to take place the day after the play’s plot. Beneath her confidence and endless flirtations, Celimene hides a deep grief for her deceased husband and a fear that her friends at court will not be able to save her from her own folly.

Enter Frank, a newcomer to this frilly French salon who pronounces himself utterly disgusted with the white lies and flattery cooked up by those around him. He recognizes a wit to match his own in Celimene but is ready to dismiss her before a few well-placed lies thrust the pair into each other’s arms– and, within minutes, hearts.

Described as “a rom-com for wordsmiths,” “School For Lies” certainly provides a wealth of linguistic twists and turns. When translating the play from its original French, Ives chose to rewrite the script into iambic pentameter, which English students will recognize as one of the Bard’s calling cards, while retaining the rhyming couplets– although you’ll be hard-pressed to find a work of Shakespeare that references cell phones and soda straws. Audience members should expect to find many modern tie-ins and wordplay here– think somewhere between a very shrewd Doctor Seuss and one of Shakespeare’s most “contemporary” sonnets. The writing is extremely clever, but you won’t have any trouble deciphering the language.

When it comes to the plot, the play is fairly straightforward, and ends up resembling a modern soap opera more than anything else. With plot twists built on hidden schemes, out-of-the-blue reveals and a healthy dose of comedic antics, “School For Lies” promises to keep you on the edge of your seat. Viewers can look forward to love triangles, secret siblings, and a queen in drag to save the day.

The cast, for their part, do wonderfully in bringing these colorful characters to life. They bring both physical and linguistic comedy to the forefront, never missing a beat. Keep an eye out for the trio of foolish suitors, aptly nicknamed “the clowns,” and the righteously exasperated steward who just wants to do his job in the middle of this delightfully wordy satire.

You can catch “School For Lies” in its second weekend of shows March 2-4 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at rwu.booktix.com or at the door of the Performing Arts Center (cash only) before each performance.