The School For Lies

by Joe Siegel

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday October 4, 2019

A scene from "The School of LIes"
A scene from "The School of LIes"  

"The School For Lies" is a wild farce featuring a series of misunderstandings, insults, and love affairs.

Burbage Theatre Company's production benefits from Jeff Church's focused direction and an ensemble willing to do whatever it takes to make an audience break out in laughter.

Based on Moliere's 'Le Misanthrope' and set in 1666, the story focuses on the beautiful widow Celimene (Catia) who is courted by three suitors in her Paris salon. They are the pompous Clitander (Richard Noble), the poet Oronte (Vince Petronio), and Acaste (Matthew Fagan), a vain and shallow dimwit.

Frank (James Lucey) is the outsider who disdains the hypocrisy of society. He is a crude and vulgar man who insults everyone with no sense of regret. Hmm, where have we seen this type of person before?

The lunacy commences after Philinte (a delightful Victor Neto) tells Celimene that Frank is related to King Louis XIV and tells Frank that Celimene is in love with him.

"The School For Lies" features one outrageous moment after the next. The women who visit the salon are overcome with an uncontrollable lust for Frank, who welcomes the attention.

Lucey is in top form here, showing Frank as alternately bombastic and irreverent. Lucey excels at delivering the rhyming couplets supplied by playwright David Ives. The dialogue often sounds like Shakespeare crossed with a raunchy stand-up comedian.

Catia also gives a fine performance as Celimene, providing an appealing mix of cynicism and vulnerability.

Gabrielle McCauley ("The Hypochondriac") is a stitch as Celimene's cousin Eliante, who seduces Frank in a riotously funny scene. McCauley looks like she's inhaling Lucey's face at one point. It has to be seen to be believed.

Valerie Westgate ("Our Town") shows up as Arsinoe, Celimene's bitterly jealous rival and a major troublemaker.

Looking a little like Morticia Adams with her black dress and dark eye shadow, Westgate is gleefully demented as she pulls out all the stops in a verbal barrage with Celimene. The chemistry between Westgate and Catia sizzles as each one tries to one-up the other.

A running gag features silver trays filled with canapés being knocked out of the hands of Celimene's long-suffering manservant Dubois (Andrew Iacovelli, who also plays Basque).

We wait for the moment for Dubois to reach his boiling point and when it happens, Iacovelli lets loose with a comic wail which is expertly timed.

Even though the plot doesn't quite hold up due to a far-fetched revelation at the climax, the exuberance of the performers and the high style of the production make it go down smooth.

The costume design, by Church and Jessica Winward, is exquisite. The wardrobes perfectly reflect the colorful personalities of this group of crazies.

In a season filled with intense dramas, 'The School For Lies" aims to amuse audiences with unrestrained lunacy. Church and company succeed magnificently at it.

"The School for Lies" continues through October 20. Burbage Theatre Company. 59 Blackstone Avenue, Pawtucket, RI. For tickets, visit or call (401)484-0355.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.