REVIEW: South Carolina Shakespeare Company's The Liar

“Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies…”

-Fleetwood Mac

the liar.jpg

 Due to Hurricane Florence, The Liar will end its run tonight!

There are plenty of lies in South Carolina Shakespeare Company’s production of The Liar, previously scheduled to run through Saturday at Columbia Music Festival Association, and not all of them are sweet or little. Actually, there are some absolute whoppers thrown down in this hilarious prevarication-palooza, which playwright David Ives has skillfully translated and peppered with contemporary references, some Shakespeare here and there, and just a hint of sympathy for the eponymous character. Based on the 1644 French comedy, Le Menteur, by Pierre Corneille, the plot is a delightful confection, with a storyline straight out of an episode of Three’s Company. Misunderstandings and mistaken identities abound, lechery is played for laughs, and the bungling anti-hero grows increasingly frantic as his schemes unravel. A somewhat deus ex machina conclusion solves everything by play’s end, and The Liar becomes an honest man…perhaps.

 

The show opens with a hilarious introduction by Cliton, manservant to Dorante, (who is the titular liar.) As Cliton, Sam Hetler  hits the bull’s-eye with his interpretation of the servant who is much more intelligent than his master. Though this archetype is a stock character in farce, Hetler brings a freshness and sincerity to the role. His is the only character to “break the wall” and address the audience, until Dorante concludes the show with a brief address. Hetler’s opening monologue is part rap, part straight pentameter, and part free-style. Were it not for his period costume (more on that in a minute), one might mistake him for the hands-down winner of an open-mic poetry slam. With his witty delivery and slightly-put-upon demeanor, Hetler masterfully draws the audience into the tale from the very beginning.

Played by SCSC regular, Jeff Driggers, Dorante is an eager young man who abandons his study of  Law to experience all the pleasures and diversions of Paris. (In a delicious twist of irony, Dorante is practically incapable of telling the truth, while Cliton has a comparable inability to tell a lie.) As Dorante, Driggers is a veritable dervish for most of his stage time. Constantly in motion, telling one falsehood after another, with his anxiety growing with every close call, I couldn’t help thinking of The Music Man, and how Driggers is surely destined to play Professor Harold Hill someday. His energy is seemingly boundless, and his delivery and timing are outstanding. My one complaint was that occasionally he spoke so quickly in his con-man patter, I had a difficult time catching each word, but his absolute commitment to the role and slightly over-the-top physicality left no doubt as to his meaning.

 

Soon enough, he meets two lovely young women, Clarice (Hillary MacArthur), and her friend, Lucrece (Mary Miles). Immediately proving himself a BS artist extraordinaire, he regales the ladies with stories of his battlefield heroism against the German Army. He immediately falls for Clarice, only to misunderstand when Lucrece’s maid, Isabelle, (Brittany Hammock, who turns in a delightful double role) describes her mistress as “the most beautiful one,” and sets his cap to win his inamorata, whom he now thinks is named Lucrece. The three female actors have no difficulty in keeping up with their male castmates, delivering unique, individual, characters who manage to create a cohesive trio (quartet?) without sacrificing or diluting any of their differences. Miles’ Lucrece is appropriately befuddled, without ever resorting to caricature, and uses her facial expressions to communicate just as clearly as her voice. As always, her time onstage is professional and artfully crafted. (After the show, I commented to Miles that if ever I open a playbill and see her name, I know to expect a high-quality performance, and The Liar was no exception.) As Clarice, MacArthur demonstrates not only comedic proficiency, but also an ability to play her unhappy moments with authenticity, while never compromising the overall texture of the silliness surrounding her. Although frequently distressed, MacArthur also provides a sort of calm within the chaos, treating the audience to a layered and complex character. Hammock, with a distinctive half-flowing, half-braided hairdo adding to the illusion, also plays Isabelle’s twin sister, Sabine, who just happens to be Lucrece’s maid. Though played by the same actress, the two roles are somewhat Jekyll-and-Hyde in their differences. Hammock proves that she can play sweet and salty with equal aplomb, and creates two characters with easily-identifiable differences in style and temperament, though I wouldn’t have minded a tiny costume change, such as a hat or scarf, to further punctuate the duality of the roles.

 

Things get even more turned-around when we meet Alcippe, Dorante’s best friend. Did I mention that Alcippe is engaged to Clarice? The traditional Comedie –Francaise misconceptions and mutually cloudy understandings leave Alcippe constantly vacillating between fury and thick-headed amiability. As played by Josh Kern, Alcippe has the capacity to turn his emotions on a dime (centime?) and clearly revels in playing a hothead and a pleasant fop. Having worked with Kern several times over the last seven or eight years, I have enjoyed watching a kid with a hell of a lot of raw talent grow into a seasoned pro who is quickly mastering his craft.

 

Also in the melee are Alcippe’s friend, Philiste (Morgan Wood) and Dorante’s father, Geronte (Douglas McConnell), who further complicate matters through relaying inadvertent half-truths and misinformation (Philiste), and arranging for Dorante to marry Clarice, whom Dorante thinks is named Lucrece. While these two roles are somewhat smaller than the rest, both Wood and McConnell make the most of their onstage moments, matching the rest of the cast in skill and commitment to the “reality” of the script.

 

A story about a midnight boat ride, a hilariously mimed duel, and countless moments of ensuing confusion add to the insanity, with a tidy-if-contrived happy ending for everyone. Director Scott Blanks clearly had a good time creating the frenetic insanity of the piece, yet never allows the chaos to go too far off the rails. Discipline and precision are essential when half the characters are frequently out of control, and Blanks expertly keeps the lunacy tightly blocked and well-rehearsed.

Costume Designer Janet Kile made the interesting choice of dressing each character in a combination of classical and contemporary fashion. (Kern’s plush blue great-coat and Driggers’ ornate vest work particularly well with blue jeans.) While not at all distracting, the costumes helped establish the timelessness of the plot, as does modern scene-change music. (Lady GaGa’s “Bad Romance” was an especially nice touch.) As Cliton, Hetler was the only character to appear in all-period dress, which served his character well, as he not only opens the show by addressing the audience, but comments frequently on the wild events that sweep him along for the ride.

 

The Liar is a perfect show for those who love classic farce, but it never shies away from its moments of modernity. Playwright David Ives not only translated, but also re-wrote parts of the script, adding multiple modern-day terms and expressions. As with Kile’s costumes and the 21st century music, the dialogue occasionally reinforces the message that similar shenanigans go on in 2018 as went on in 1645.

 

-FLT3

Frank Thompson is proud to serve as JASPER’s Theatre Editor, and can be reached via email at FLT31230@Yahoo.com

"King Lear" in Finlay Park - a review by Jillian Owens

The South Carolina Shakespeare Company opens their fall season with King Lear, one of Shakespeare’s best-known tragedies. George Bernard Shaw once said "No man will ever write a better tragedy than Lear,”  and one can definitely see where he’s coming from. Madness, betrayal, suffering, war, and death are all over this play, and the body count is nothing short of impressive. kinglear

The elderly King Lear (Chris Cook) is ready for retirement. He plans to divide his kingdom among his  three daughters, Goneril (Raia Hirsch), Regan (Sara Blanks), and Cordelia (Katie Mixon.) But there’s  a catch: the largest quantity of land will go to the daughter who can prove she loves him most. Goneril  and Regan are perfectly happy to deliver speeches of loyalty and devotion that drip with aspartame. But  Cordelia remains stoic, saying she has nothing to compare her love to. Her frankness leads to her father  disowning her and splitting his lands between Regan and Goneril. The King of France, impressed with her honesty offers to marry her:

“Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich, being poor; most choice, forsaken;  and most lov'd, despis'd!  Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon. Be it lawful I take up what's cast  away.”

And they hop off to France.

Chris Cook as King Lear

Lear quickly learns how fickle filial loyalty can be. As soon as he relinquishes his power, he loses all  respect from both of his daughters. They chide him for being raucous, and force him to let the majority of  his entourage go. This shocking fall from power and dignity leads Lear to become more and more insane as the play progresses. The former King quickly learns that his only true friends are his now-disguised former pal Kent (Tracy Steele) whom he banished for defending Cordelia, and his Fool (played by Jeff Driggers.)

Intermingled in this main plot is further drama with a troublemaking illegitimate son by the name of  Edmund (Bobby Bloom) to the Earl of Gloucester (Richard Purday.) He tricks Gloucester - way too easily - into thinking his legitimate son Edgar (William Cavitt) plans to steal his estate.   Eyeballs are removed, women are seduced, and lots of folks die in some pretty creative ways.

Katie Mixon (center) as Cordelia - photo by Gerilyn Browning Kim

In this production of Lear, director Linda Khoury has assembled a large cast with varying skill levels and a  curious array of accents. Cook is a vulnerable and powerful Lear, and he captures his descent into madness with an intensity that evokes sympathy. Hirsh and Blanks are appropriately evil as Goneril  and Regan, and Mixon makes for a wonderful contrast as the honest and sincere Cordelia.  Edmund gets some of the best lines in the play, and Bloom delivers them with acerbic intensity:

“Wherefore should I stand in the plague of custom, and  permit the curiosity of nations to deprive me, for that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines lag of  a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?”

Driggers plays the Fool (see what I did there?) not so much as a clown, but as a terrified young man who grasps  the gravity of a dangerous situation from which he must save his friend. There’s an urgency about this Fool that is an unexpected take on the character. Cavitt delivers one of the most challenging and high-energy  performances in the play as the selfless, though hopelessly naive, Edgar.

Richard Purday and Chris Cook - photo by Rob Sprankle

A few members of the ensemble couldn’t quite pick an accent - which was distracting - but as I said  before, this is a large cast and every actor’s performance can’t always be golden. At the preview performance I attended, there was a moment of nudity that I’m not altogether sure was simply a wardrobe  malfunction. I can’t imagine bringing small children to something as heavy as a Shakespearean  tragedy, however, so this might not be an issue for you. The key players do interesting work, and the SC  Shakespeare Company takes a straightforward interpretation of King Lear to a few surprisingly creative  places.

~ Jillian Owens

King Lear runs Wednesday, October 22 through Saturday, October 25 in the Amphitheatre in Finlay Park. Curtain is at 7:30 PM, and the Wednesday performance is free!  For more information, visit http://www.shakespearesc.org/ .

 

Expecting Goodness Short Film Festival Showcases Columbia Talent

EGSFF-site-header-post-festIf you're in the mood for a short road trip and short films this weekend then travel up to Spartanburg for the third year of the Expecting Goodness Film Festival. Two films from Soda City will be screened as part of the program this year. So Beautiful, by filmmaker Joshua Foster is adapted from Jasper Editor Cindi Boiter's short story "Alvin & Alvie." So Beautiful tells the story of a father and his struggling relationship with his daughter after the death of his wife. The film is a touching slice of time between father and daughter.

Columbia filmmaker Jeff Driggers presents his short “Happy Hour”. The film centers around the thoughts of one woman in a bar. It is a simple story about a complex character. This is Driggers' second year participating in the festival.

Filmmaker Jeff Driggers

The Expecting Goodness Film Festival will present two shows on Saturday, June 14th at the Chapman Cultural Center. The first screening starts at noon, and the second will take begin at 7 PM. Tickets may be purchased through the Expecting Goodness website at www.expectinggoodness.com.

Win Passes to World Premiere of Cinema Purgatorio

cinema purg Yes, summer is finally making its way to Columbia after a spring that teased far more than delivered and, before you know it, events will thin out, you might not have to wait to get a table at Cellar on Greene, and you may even find a booth at The Whig. Those who know Columbia know that part of our culture is to sort of go underground during the summer months. We’re not sure whether it’s because we’re a college town or whether we’re so perfectly positioned between the mountains and the shore that it’s hard to stay put during summer days – or whether it’s just so damn hot here in July that we just can’t stand it. But we are what we are, and you have to love us.

That said, don’t put away your opera glasses and pearls quite yet. (Pfft! Who has opera glasses or wears pearls to most of Columbia’s events? Show off!) Jasper has several important arts events on our upcoming radar, so don’t pack your bags just yet.

Chris White & Emily Reach White

 

Sunday, June 1st – Cinema Purgatorio World Premiere

We’re delighted that SC filmmaking team Emily Reach & Chris White of Paris Mountain Scout productions chose Columbia to premiere their latest film, Cinema Purgatorio. You might remember the Whites from their previous feature films Taken In (2011) and Get Better (2012). Not only do the husband-and-wife team of Chris and Emily have strong ties to Columbia, but two of the actors in the film walked right off of Main Street.

While local filmmaker/actor Jeff Driggers plays the pushy documentarian Clark Wiggins, Alex Smith, whose work ranges from the stage to the studio to the screen, plays a pretentious filmmaker named Dos Midler. (Alex is also a staff writer for Jasper, and Jeff won the Jasper Award at Hub City’s Expecting Goodness Film Festival last June. Both were chosen to participate in Jasper’s Second Act Film Festival last October.) In addition, Columbia photographer Sean Rayford will be shooting red carpet photos at the first screening and the reception at Bourbon.

Jeff Driggers

 

Alex Smith

 

What’s more, the after party at The Art Bar will feature live music by  Shallow Palace and Mel Washington. Tickets to either screening include admission to the after-party.

As a sponsor of Cinema Purgatorio, Jasper invites everyone to come out and support independent filmmaking for the premiere showing on June 1st at IT-ology.  By purchasing your tickets at this special Jasper site, you’ll also be supporting Jasper Magazine.

But there’s more. Everyone who joins the Jasper Guild this week – at any level – will be entered to win two Gold Pass tickets to the premiere, including passes to the Producer’s Reception.  (Those who join at the $25 level will be entered once; those at the $50 level - twice, those at the $100 level - four times, at the $250 - 10 times.) Drawing will take place on Saturday afternoon, May 31st and the winner will be notified by email and announced on Facebook and Twitter. For more on the Jasper Guild -- see Below.

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Isn’t it time for YOU to join the Jasper Guild?

The Jasper Guild is a group of supporting artists and arts lovers who appreciate not only the vital Columbia, SC arts scene, but the magazine devoted to promoting it. Members of the Jasper Guild recognize the labor-of-love that is Jasper and work to do their parts to ensure that Jasper continues to publish a 100% LOCAL & artist-produced magazine. You’re invited to join us in our mission to make Columbia, SC the Southeast arts capitol by becoming a member of the Jasper Guild. And the next time you open a copy of Jasper you’ll be able to say,

“I helped make this happen and here’s my name to prove it!”

  • Apprentice – 1 year delivery of Jasper & your name listed in Jasper for 1 year $50
  • Journeyman – above + your name in print in LARGE LETTERS $100
  • Master – above + a non-transferable Econobar PASS for 1 year $250
  • Centerfold Sponsorship above + your name/dedication printed on the centerfold $500
  • Publisher above + your choice of 3 books from the Muddy Ford Press catalogue $1000

 “But I’m just a starving artist myself,” you say?

  • Artist Peer - Practicing artists in dance, theatre, music, film, visual & literary arts are invited to join The Jasper Guild at a reduced rate & see your name in Jasper for 1 year $25

Join NOW!

 

 

 

 

Expecting Something at the Expecting Goodness Film Festival, by Susan Levi Wallach

Friday night with Melinda Cotton in the hotel bar: Kari Jackson called us brave—“us” being the writers who submitted short stories (their darling lambs) to the Expecting Goodness Film Festival, where twelve of them, shorn, would premiere as ten-minute films.  OK, not shorn.  Massaged, tweaked, re-imagined, visualized.  Those characters that had gamboled through our minds?  About to be up on the David Reid Theatre screen, in Spartanburg.

Earlier this evening, I sat with Matthew Fogarty (whose reading of “Denouement” rocked) and found out that we have more in common than Columbia: Neither of us had seen the films that tomorrow will be shown to a sold-out house, and both of our filmmakers had ditched our titles. “Denouement” was now “Resolution”; my “Simon of the Dessert” had become “Grace” (Bunuel does have a lock on the film title).

No matter. This is “a writer’s film festival.” We all are expecting goodness—that’s the name of the festival, and Kari, the festival’s associate director, has us feeling optimistic and bold. But at the end of the reading, which none of our filmmakers attended, Matthew and I are wondering—in a good, expectant way—what we’ll see tomorrow.

Melinda Cotton, the remaining Columbia writer, is better than optimistic. Her filmmaker, Durham Harrison, kept her involved throughout the process. Even let her attend the shoot. “I told him, ‘Here’s my heart,’ ” she said, referring to her story “Grammy’s Keys.” (Her filmmaker, his filmmaker:  Writers can be possessive—anything for the illusion of control.)

Question:  What if the movie I had running in my head while writing the story is not the movie that Adam had in his when he wrote the script?

Answer:  It probably isn’t.  And it doesn’t matter.  Really, it doesn’t.

 The morning after:

The Expecting Goodness Film Festival was a feat of organization, from the “red carpet” photo opps for the filmmakers and writers to the stick-to-the-schedule precision that had a seven-or-so-hour event wrap just about on time.  Not that anyone attends a film festival for anything other than the films. All of them had merit; a few were exceptional. Among the standouts was “Pretty Pitiful God,” by Columbia’s Jeffrey Driggers and Drew Baron, based on a short story by Deno Trakas (and featuring two of the Almor brothers, Itai and Gaal). Not only did it win the Jasper’s Pick Award but also a shout-out from Paris MTN Scout. “Resolution” made it to the screen only as a half-finished music video; “Grace,” which had almost nothing to do with my story, was a fabulous, comic riff on love and obsession.

 The writer of the short story, Deno, with my favorite film makers Jeff Driggers and Drew Baron — with Deno Trakas, Jeff Driggers and Drew Baron in Columbia.

Besides the six Expecting Goodness participants already mentioned, filmmakers Ron Hagell, Shirley Ann Smith, and John Daniel Fisher (who won Best Emerging Filmmaker for “Remember, No Thinking”) also live in the Columbia area.  The Nick will show all of the films from the Expecting Goodness Film Festival at a special screening on May 21 at 5:30 PM.

~ Susan Levi Wallach

Sneak Peak at Jeff Driggers' new film -- The Cricket Trial -- premiering at Jasper release celebration

Here's a little something about Jeff Driggers' Southern gothic film -- The Cricket Trial --premiering Thursday night at the Jasper release event. The 12 minute long film will premiere at 7:30 in the Jasper Studios at the Arcade (Suite 75) with repeated showings beginning at 9:30.

Maddened by grief, Harold Honeycut forces Palmer Reynolds, the teenager he blames for the death of his daughter, to dig his own grave. Underneath the roar of the crickets in the cornfield, a trial is held that forces both participants to face unpleasant truths that lead to the worst day of both of their lives.

Town Theatre staple Scott Stepp and PCA theatre alum Trey King star in this 12 minute short that deals with grief, guilt, and the conflicting love that two men share for one person. The Cricket Trial was written and directed by Jeff Driggers, a filmmaker who developed a passion for filmmaking while he was a student at Richland Northeast High School, and the passion continued at the University of Texas at Austin where he earned a degree in Radio, Television,& Film. Driggers now runs his own videography company, Palmetto Pictures.

The Cricket Trial was produced by USC graduate Drew Baron who, along with O'Neal Peterson, founded Medianauts, an independent company dedicated to making works of passion instead of profit.

Line-up for Jasper Volume 002, Number 001 Release Event this Thursday

If you've been hearing about the big shindig Jasper is planning to celebrate the release of the first magazine in VOLUME TWO of our little publication, then you know how excited all of us on the Jasper staff and in the Jasper Family* are. The event is this Thursday night at the Arcade Studios on Main and Washington Streets in downtown Columbia -- we'll start about 7 and proceed through the night with food, fun, adult beverages, and all kinds of art.

Here is a rundown of what to expect and when to expect it.**

7:00 -- Doors Open -- Open house in Jasper Studios #75 upstairs

7:30 -- World Premiere Film, THE CRICKET TRIAL, starring Scott Stepp and Trey King, directed by Jeff Driggers; Drew Baron, producer (Jasper Studios #75)

8:00 -- Don McCallister will be reading from his new novel, Fellow Traveler, coming in October from Muddy Ford Press   (Jasper Studios #75)

8:00 -- Countertenor Danny Jenkins will perform in the Arcade Atrium (Washington Street side)

8:30 -- Centerfold signing by surprise artist (Jasper Studios #75)

8:30 -- Marshall Brown performs (Arcade Atrium, Washington Street Side)

9:00 -- Don McAllister second reading (Jasper Studios #75)

9:30 -- THE CRICKET TRIAL second showing with repeat showings throughout the remainder of the evening (Jasper Studios #75)

9:30 -- Devils in Disguise band performs (Arcade Atrium, Washington Street Side)

Throughout the Arcade, please visit the following Arcade Studio Artists who will have their studios open at times of their own discretion during the evening:

Blue Sky     Bonnie Goldberg     Tish Lowe     Eileen Blyth     Beth West

Mike Spotts     Payton Frawley     Leah Avery     Walton Selig

Martha Thomas     Suzi Shealy     Page Morris

Bryce Dixon     Whitney LeJeune     Veronica Jeffcoat

Guest Artists from the September issue of Jasper will also be on hand showing samples of their work.

Chef Joe Turkaly will be serving up the results of the fine art of BBQ ($).

The Jasper EconoBar will be in full swing with cheap beer $3, decent wine $4, and big spender craft brew $4***

Paradise Ice will have their cart of cold sweet yumminess ($).

Artisanal jewelry and candles will be available via LA Ti Da and Southern Baked Candles.

Learn about upcoming arts events from Trenholm Artists Guild and the Rosewood Arts Festival, Columbia City Ballet, and more.

And here's one more thing --

Against the likely good advice of our friends and family, Jasper has decided to continue to put together these lovely celebrations free of charge. It's important to us that everyone be able to get in the door and experience this fascinating amalgam of performing and visual arts that we get to write about and photograph for Jasper Magazine on a daily basis.

At the end of our first year, we are delighted that issue No. 001, Volume 002 is the first issue that has paid for itself (before paying out commissions and honoraria to our talented staff of writers, photographers, and our heart-of-gold designer). We've come a long way in a year and we're very proud of the work we do.

That said, it's a labor of love.

If you love our labor and would like to pitch 10 cents or 10 bucks into the pot to help Jasper continue to grow healthy and strong, we'd like to help you do that -- and we'd like to publicly give you credit for having done so!

Please visit the Jasper Studios in the Arcade upstairs in suite #75 Thursday night and see one of our staff members about publicly supporting the arts magazine that supports your city's arts. We won't be able to put your name in lights, but we can put it in print. 

We're calling it the Jasper Guild and you can learn more about it Thursday night.

See you then!

____________________________

*We're an affectionate bunch. And sometimes when we meet another arts organization, or even an advertising client, that shares our mission of nurturing Columbia as the Southeastern arts destination it was born to be, we get all chummy with them. They become "Family."

**Please keep in mind that these times are represented (rather than in EST or DST) in CAT (Columbia Artists' Time). Our artists keep a chronograph all of their own making -- and Jasper loves this about them.

***The Jasper EconoBar is a fundraising arm of Jasper Magazine -- all prices are suggested donations. Please be prepared to show ID to partake of adult beverages.