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 The Theatreguide.London Review

The Truth-Teller
King's Head Theatre   Spring 2012

Almost as if Jim Carrey hadn't starred in Liar Liar in 1997, David Crook has written a comedy about a compulsive liar forced, this time by a combination of hypnosis and philosophical mumbo-jumbo, to tell nothing but the truth, with farcical results. 

Crook's version he acknowledges the Carrey antecedent along with others in a programme note - plays like a particularly good half-hour TV sitcom episode, stretched to three times its natural length and not benefiting from the extension. 

Crook's liar Jonathan drives his girlfriend Mary crazy with his constant lying. Not content with simply not telling the truth, he invents baroque scenarios even when they're not needed it's not enough for him to have supposedly had an unhappy childhood, but dingos and drug dealers have to be involved. 

Mary sends him to shrink Shane, who comically invokes Kant and Bonhoffer at length in his argument for truth-telling, but gets further with a bit of hypnosis, and soon Jonathan is telling Mary exactly how pretty she is and how good she is in bed. 

A suicidal shopkeeper somehow gets involved as things escalate, until everyone else's more balanced approaches toward truth-telling make a happy ending possible. 

Playwright Crook has a real talent for comic arias, and much of the fun comes not only from Jonathan's extended flights of fancy, but from each of the others taking a turn at explaining some deep thought with incongruous eloquence, as if Tennessee Williams had written an Introduction To Philosophy textbook. 

He's a little less skilled at construction, as the shopkeeper is dragged into the play arbitrarily just to fill out the middle half-hour and his subplot resolved just as abruptly, while the character of Shane's girlfriend is underwritten and seems there only for the symmetry. 

Still, if you relate to this on the cartoon-dimensional sitcom level and aren't bothered too much by the sense of a limited amount of comic material being stretched too thin, you'll laugh about as many times as you would in a good TV half-hour. 

Svetlana Dimcovic directs with a full appreciation of the script's strengths and limits, punching up the gags and not looking for depth or roundness of character that isn't there. Tom Radford as Jonathan and Gary Cady as Shane have the richest roles and deliver their comic arias well. 

Martha Barnett has little to do as Mary but look upset, and Sammy Kissin is given even less to work with as Shane's receptionist/girlfriend, while Naveed Khan recognises that the shopkeeper is a typical sitcom incidental character caricature and plays him as such with admirable gusto.

Gerald Berkowitz

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