Not quite OK


Have another beer and tell me something true.

Have another beer and tell me something true.

Liar, 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday; $15-$20. EMH Productions at the William J. Geery Theater, 2130 L Street; Through December 8.

William J Geery Theater

2130 L St.
Sacramento, CA 95816

(916) 448-9019

Rated 4.0

“Are we OK?”

That’s the constant question asked by the young man at the heart of Canadian playwright Brian Drader’s Liar, EMH Productions’ new show at the William J. Geery Theater directed by Kara Ow.

Mark (Dan Fagan) is the ultimate nice guy, whether he’s partying on the roof with Jeremy (Kevin Kirtlan) or, after Jeremy has died, comforting his sister Sherry (Elise Hodge). As the already-shaky marriage of Sherry and Ben (Eric Baldwin) begins to totter more wildly, helped along by the ever-present, ever-needy Mark (“Are we OK?”), Drader’s play scrapes away the lies that have been holding it together. The tools for this work are the lies told by the possibly sociopathic Mark, and they serve as either incredible irony or weird poetic justice. In either case, it works.

As Sherry, Hodge’s performance is a complex study in the ways that grief and rage interact. She’s aided greatly by Baldwin, who shows a depth beyond his previous “men behaving badly” roles: His Ben is vulnerable and angry about it, but projects a genuine desire to do the right thing and not hurt other people. Kirtlan’s Jeremy is pain on two legs, struggling to find acceptance and affection in whatever way he can. We’re never quite sure if Mark is the worst thing that happens to him or just the last thing.

Mark is the crucible in which the other characters are tested, but he is far from the only liar. Fagan portrays him as a beautiful, likable man. It’s easy to see why people are attracted to him, why Mark prompts those around him to vulnerability and revelation.

Also worth noting is the way that EMH Productions gets a fully realized set into the cramped space at the Geery. The design, by Ow and Hodge, is amazing—and the first this critic has seen to make use of the space’s basement windows.

An intense show dealing with suicide, grief and dishonesty, Liar is best suited for adult audiences. An early scene is a very realistic portrayal of lovemaking between a married couple and includes some nudity. It’s about unearthing the lies that happen in adult lives, then building something worth keeping.

And are they OK? Not quite, but they’re getting there.