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Love Is Lying

Wednesday, November 07, 2018
By Deepa Ghalot

After the emotional wringer that 'The Father' was, Naseeruddin Shah must have decided to have some fun, which is probably why he picked up 'The Truth', a play by the same writer – Florian Zeller – a light but sharp piece about infidelity, just short of being a Ray Cooney farce, by its intelligent structure, and proximity, in spirit, to plays like 'Dangerous Liaisons' and 'Betrayal'.

Zeller is a popular French playwright, whose works have been translated into English by Christopher Hampton (who also translated Yasmina Reza's plays). 'The Truth' is about two couples caught in such a web of lies that it is difficult to gauge whether the honest admission of guilt and deception sets them free or pushes them into further tangles.

Only the French could take adultery with such a sophisticated shrug of the shoulders – KC (Shah – a bit overage for the part) is having an affair with his best friend Zed's (Gaurav Sharma) wife Lovelin (Meher Mistry). They meet in hotel rooms between work-related meetings, a sordid situation that has started to grate on her. After one such tryst, KC's lies start to unravel, when he gets home to find that his wife Avan (Avantika Akerkar) ran into the man he was supposed to be meeting with. KC covers up that lie by saying he was with his best friend, only to be informed that Zed had been unable to reach KC, so had called home on the landline.

KC puts on an air of injured innocence – the 'do you trust me'? 'Do you love me'? questions are raked up and he believes he has allayed his wife's suspicions. Lovelin and KC decide to spend a weekend together, only to discover that the lie she has told her husband does not hold up, so in the play's funniest scene, KC has to pretend, on the phone, to be the aunt she is supposedly with.

The audience is led to follow KC's travails, that get more complicated as the play progresses; by the end, none of the four is quite sure about which version of the 'true lies' has been believed, or indeed, what is the truth of their marriages.

Directed by Ratna Pathak and Naseeruddin Shah, it is an amusing play, with competent performances and a stage design that allows for quick changes from homes, hotel rooms, office, club changing room and so on, between blackouts. It is a sign of the times that adultery is seen as a subject that evokes laughter, rather than anger, guilt or distress. (One of the characters even asks, “I want to know what kind of play we're in. Is it a comedy? Or a tragedy?”)

Interestingly, Zeller wrote 'The Mother', as a companion piece to 'The Father', which one hopes will be staged with Motley, with Ratna Pathak Shah in the lead; he also wrote 'The Lie' after 'The Truth', also about two married couples (with the same names), and also about the shifting sands on which the modern-day marriage is precariously set.

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