Theater review: Capital Liar at The Magnetic Theatre

Photo by Rodney Smith/Tempus Fugit Design
Carrie Kimbrell Kimzey and Paul Matthew Gallaher in The Magnetic Theatre’s world premiere of Peter Lundblad’s Capital Liar, directed by Rodney Smith.

The Magnetic Theatre consistently stages new plays filled with a regular cast of actors, writers and directors. Along the way, the local theater company has had its ups and downs, but it’s never lacked in the variety of tales and passion its brought to the stage. In latest production Capital Liar, by local writer Peter Lundblad, the audience is treated to something a bit familiar, but infused with fresh faces and new energy. The play runs through Saturday, July 30.

Set in post-McCarthy-era Washington, D.C., Capital Liar follows the exploits of tabloid newsman Sly Goodwin. He is trying to compete with the upstart National Enquirer while running his entire operation — the play’s namesake tabloid — alone from a grungy office. Paul Gallaher is charming as the lovable rascal Sly. He regularly breaks the fourth wall, inviting the audience along his quirky journey with a wink and a smile.

It is a throwback to the era of “His Gal Friday” movies, with ratatat dialogue and turns of phrase that are relics of that bygone era. Emily Tucker plays Vanna Sharpe, a smart and sassy reporter with a legit newspaper. She likes Sly and relishes their daily banter. Tucker has the right attitude for the role, but, sadly, she seems a bit too self-aware in her performance. As a result, she plays her lines too softly at times, often losing clear pronunciation, making it a bit of a challenge to understand her.

A trio of supporting actors steal the show. Badi Mirheli is wonderfully slimy as Franco Alvino, a mobster who takes interest in funding Sly’s tabloid. He also takes strong editorial control, much to Sly’s dismay. Meanwhile, Franco’s girlfriend, Maria, is strongly attracted to Sly, giving him a sense of conflict and cause for concern — he doesn’t want to be on the receiving end of Franco’s legendary wrath. Newcomer Carrie Kimbrell Kimzey fills the Maria character (and requisite slinky dresses) perfectly, playing the femme fatale to the fullest. Rounding out the cast is Pasquale LaCorte as Vincent, the FBI guy who helps Sly get scoops for his paper. LaCorte knows how to wring a laugh out of every line and gesture, and he infuses the role with a Peter Sellers quality reminiscent of the Pink Panther films.

Nothing is ever as it seems. There are double crosses, triple crosses, red herrings and reveals that elicit laughs and gasps. Act one ends in a sequence of no dialogue that plays like a classic Keystone Cops routine. It sets the stage for revelations of all the twists and turns in act two.

Rodney Smith is familiar to the local theater scene as a professional photographer, writer and director in his own right. In the latter role for Capital Liar, he brings an inspired assurance that keeps the show light and fun. He is up to the challenge of the nuanced style of the piece. As the playwright, Lundblad shows a promising mastery of comedy. He is a writer to watch, and a welcome addition to the Magnetic Theatre’s stable of talent.

WHAT: Capital Liar
WHERE: The Magnetic Theatre, 375 Depot St. themagnetictheatre.org
WHEN: Through Saturday, July 30, Thursdays-Saturdays, at 7:30 p.m. $21-24 general/$10 student rush tickets 30 minutes before curtain

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About Jeff Messer
playwright, actor, director and producer, Jeff Messer has been most recently known as a popular radio talk show host. He has been a part of the WNC theatre scene for over 25 years, and actively works with and supports most of the theatres throughout the region. Follow me @jeffdouglasmess

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