'School for Lies' delights in clever repartee, twists and turns
Cuddled together in a booth at the Double Wide Grill, actors Nike Doukas and Leo Marks are the picture of a contented couple.
When they converse, their eyes lock onto each other. They finish each other's sentences.
Responses to interview questions overlap and weave together to complete a thought.
Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre audiences will find the happily married spouses engaged in verbal fisticuffs when Doukas and Marks appear opposite each other in the Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre production of “The School for Lies,” which begins performances Thursday in the Charity Randall Theatre in Oakland.
Both have made frequent appearances in the company's productions, often in the same play.
Earlier this season, they both had roles in “The Bear,” “Ivanov” and “Three Sisters” and, in 2011, they shared the stage in Alan Ayckbourn's two connected comedies “House” and “Garden.”
In 2010, they played an unhappily married couple in the Pinter one-act “The Betrayal.”
But “The School for Lies” is the first time they have played lead roles opposite each other in a full-length play for Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre.
David Ives' dark comedy updates Moliere's 17th-century comedy of manners about a disillusioned curmudgeon who vows to speak only the truth — no matter how disconcerting or offensive.
Frank delights in offending nearly everyone until he meets the beautiful Celimene, an aristocrat with a sharp wit and an even-sharper tongue.
“It's about what happens when love is available to you, how it changes you. What's delightful is to see two unlikable people who are the smartest, funniest people in the room,” Doukas says.
They're not unlike the clever, verbally dueling couple Beatrice and Bendick in Shakespeare's “Much Ado About Nothing,” Doukas says.
“What the play very much has of Moliere is verbal dexterity taken to Olympic levels,” Marks says.
“The dialogue is written in rhyming couplets,” Doukas says. “And they are so clever.”
Like Doukas and Marks, Celimene and Frank connect as soon as they meet.
“But the attraction is manifested in its prickliness, Doukas says. “I don't like him, because he's so nasty. He's dressed in black and contemptuous of my world. … We immediately spar.”
“He makes a spectator sport out of clever references,” Mark says. “I am being theatrically misanthropic, deliberately setting myself up as an executioner of hypocrisy. I've heard rumors about her as a gossip and a flirt …”
“And his antenna is up,” Doukas adds.
The costuming maintains the period of the original, but with some minor nods to the present.
“There's a little more leg (showing) on the women and the men are in leather instead of silk,” Doukas says.
Ives' updated version adds a prologue, a back story and some contemporary references and changes the name of Marks' character from Alceste to the more apt “Frank.”
“Ives makes it much more bawdy. The language never stops dazzling. It's clever and there's a lot of physical stuff,” Doukas says.
“Everybody is chasing the wrong person around,” Marks says.
Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or email@example.com.