The Fantastic Fabricator

Dorante (Vinny Tatro) meeting Clarice (Nicole Jane) for the first time. Photo by Martin VanBuren III.

In my last review, I critiqued “Rhinoceros” (perhaps a little harsher than I should’ve) but I want the individuals involved in every show — both cast and crew — to be able to reflect on their contribution and improve upon it.

With “The Liar,” I cannot compare the performances of the actors simply because this was a completely different cast from “Rhinoceros.” I ended my last review asking to have my socks blown off, and to be honest, I couldn’t find them after seeing the show for the second time.

Let’s talk lighting, shall we? Holy smokes. I honestly thought during an evening scene at first glance that video projections were being utilized to achieve the desired “moonlight through the trees” look. Even if it wasn’t meant to represent moonlight, it still made my jaw drop; and from a photographer-perspective, I could see myself photoshopping some pretty spooky things in there. Next time!

Even the intermission lighting was fascinating! If I had one complaint, it was that the lighting during the night scene was too dark for my camera, but otherwise, it works great for an audience! Ok, so I don’t even really have a legit complaint about the lighting.

The set for me was very reminiscent of the “Romeo and Juliet” stage from a few years ago. Maybe it was the building and street design combined with the foliage, but I loved every bit of it. I think the highlight for me was the fountain/statue in the middle, as well as the curly little plants scattered around the set. And it was symmetrical! So that’s an automatic 10/10. Well, except for the leafy vine on the left-hand side, but it proved to be a perfect set for the production.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the sound utilized for the show, but maybe that’s my already-negative bias against the songs; they’re the type that get stuck in your head REALLY fast. And they don’t get out.   

I did appreciate that the songs were all string (or orchestral) covers of the pieces. I think that definitely matched the tone of the show, and I appreciate the connection between the seriousness of the show and the seriousness of the songs used. They were both serious, and not serious.

Now let’s get into the good stuff.

Alcippe (Brandon Bailey) and Dorante (Vinny Tatro) appear hilt-to-hilt during a duel in "The Liar." Photo by Martin VanBuren III. 

Vinny Tatro. Holy shit. I don’t think anyone else could’ve played the role of Dorante better than you. You were cunning, swift, and danced through motions and lines as if everything was natural. Your physical and vocal acting was superb; I have to say I laughed an equal number of times on the delivery of dialogue AND the timing of your movement. The duel with Alcippe (Brandon Bailey) was not only magnificently choreographed, but was one of my favorite standout moments from the show.

And you didn’t even duel! But you did. I definitely got a little bit of a Sherlock Holmes vibe (with Robert Doweny Jr.) where you described the duel before it even took place. The scene where you puppeteer Clinton (Anders Bright) was genius and hysterical. “Thou Bastard” was one of the highlights of the show for laughter, which prompted the entire audience to respond. The one line that woke EVERYONE up though, was “Amazing Tits.” I’m sitting here continuing to chuckle, but maybe that’s my immaturity.

Speaking of Bright, his physical acting and inflection paired perfectly with Tatro. I have to say, I saw a little Charlie Chaplin in his movement. The vocal sounds you made while Tatro was puppeteering you, in addition to “Are you my dad/father?” both got me good. One scene in particular that caused laughter to erupt from the audience was the Mission Impossible entrance. I have a feeling that wasn’t scripted, and I think it was a fantastic inclusion.

Katy Albert  (Lucrece) was right in the mix in prompting laughter from the audience. Notable moments for me were the letter opening, the “coaching” of Clarice (Nicole Jane), and any scene where she was fierce and showcasing her own loveable style of humor, which was every scene. And I loved them all.

Lucrece (Katy Albert) and Clarice (Nicole Jane) writing a letter to Dorante. Photo by Martin VanBuren III.

It took audiences a little bit to warm up to the Dr. Seuss-like writing and costuming, but it wasn’t long after Brandon Bailey (who played Alcippe) entered when the audience started to giggle a little more. The secret handshake got me good, but “Would you speak lower” and the procession of literally speaking in a lower pitch got quite a few laughs. Brandon’s comedic timing was on point.

“I will say two words: pomegranate,” also received an eruption of laughter from the audience, and was perfectly timed and executed.

Nicole Jane, who portrayed Clarice was phenomenal. She had me laughing an uncountable times during the show; but if I’m being honest, the whole cast had me doing that the whole time. The entire night sequence where Katy (Lucrece) whispered what to say to Dorante had me dying. “My god you’re sexy” was delivered perfectly, alongside several other lines that showcased the hilarious duo of the two.

Rebecca Russell (Isabelle/Sabine) couldn’t have been cast more perfectly. The combination of stone-cold fury (Sabine) and the adorable/flirty (Isabelle) were both portrayed in a manner where even the physical movement of each character was unique. You knew when Sabine was on her way. But both characters had a representation of their own, and were portrayed beautifully.

Kyle McCarthy (Philiste) projected some of the seriousness of the show, as his character was one of the more straight-forward and earnest of the bunch. I can’t say a whole lot, as his onstage time was limited in comparison to other characters.

And lastly Virgil Van Guilder, sorry for saving you for last! The physical acting had everyone laughing as you exited with your joyful hop twice. After both times, I was expecting you to exit like that EVERY time. I felt a bit of a Gandalf vibe from your character, but I think it fit quite well. You hit both emotions as Dorante’s father; pure joy, and raw fear-inducing power.

If I had anything negative to say about the performance, it would be the premature exit of the audience prior to curtain call. Holy shit Castleton, this is the second performance in a row that I have attended where the student audience has been unbelievably disrespectful. I get it — everybody in the back — you were there from 6:45ish-9:30, it’s a long show. But it’s also a long PERFORMANCE for the cast and crew, who have worked very hard to put the show together. You got in for free. They’re unpaid. And fellow students.

Now that I’ve taken care of that, Vinny, Nicole, and Katy; I have photographed the three of you (I should probably include Garrett if we include “Rhinoceros,” so four) the most on stage while I’ve been here at Castleton, and I’ve photographed some of my favorite characters that each of you have portrayed. I’m going to miss all of you on stage after you graduate.

I’ll see you next semester.

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