Written by Tanaya Dash
The renowned English play "Dear Liar" featuring two of the finest actors of Indian cinema and theatre veterans - Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah, was held at the Oman Auditorium of Al Bustan Palace, Ritz-Carlton Hotel at 7pm on 20 September. Patrons of theatre and performance arts had much to celebrate as the play turned out to be a stupendous success.
Dear Liar is one of the most fascinating love stories based on the letters exchanged between dramatist and social activist George Bernard Shaw (Naseeruddin Shah) and celebrated actress of the time, Mrs Patrick Stella Campbell (Ratna Pathak Shah),for over four decades.
The play, written by American writer Jerome Kilty and directed by late Pandit Satyadev Dubey, highlights not only their deep mutual admiration and love but also the crucial era of theatre's history from 1899-1939 when many groundbreaking accomplishments were achieved. It also reveals the warm human side of George Bernard Shaw. The play was presented by Motley Theatre Group formed by Naseeruddin in 1979.
Fans of Shaw's work were in for a treat as this play surpassed the usual aridity of dramatizations and swept the audience to a tumultuous historical romance.
The set comprised two windows behind which hide the necessary props. In front were a table and various chairs.
The director gives the two just enough stage business to stop the play from becoming a wall of words. He cleverly brings the letters together. Rather than simply reading plain text, the two characters actually seem to be speaking to each other, breathing life into this quiescent love. The play is filled with George Bernard Shaw's clever remarks, but Mrs. Pat is equally witty and humorous.
They are dressed in formal attire in the first act, which ends with a victory for 49-year-old Mrs. Pat as the original Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion in 1914. They are dressed more casually in the second act, which includes Shaw's famous belted country jacket.
Even though the love story is the main foundation of this play, it looks appealing while showing a glimpse of life back in the 19th and 20th centuries and renders a taste of English and American society.
For theatre aficionados, this drama is a treat as it reflects how Shaw got Campbell to star as Eliza Doolittle in his Pygmalion, and the way he menaced her during the play rehearsals or Campbell's silly indulgences with her white Pekingese, Moonbeam.The audience witnessed some amusing and endearing parts in the play, for example when Campbell unwillingly rehearses for the part of Doolittle in her cockney accent, as Shaw keeps crossly interrupting. There are touching scenes too, like when they exchange letters about Patrick's son, who was killed in the war and Bernard Shaw's narration of his mother's funeral and cremation.
Nonetheless, audiences enjoyed the clever exchanges of Shaw and Mrs. Campbell, as they let the off-stage and on-stage talent give them different glimpses of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins.
Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah were equally magnanimous and it is hard to imagine anyone else in their roles. With a minimal, yet homely set as a backdrop, this play lets the two actors spin yarns beautifully. The two manage to flirt and quarrel their way across the decades and into each other's hearts.
The audience lauded the brilliantly performed theatrical production filled with whimsy and tragic gentleness and bestowed upon them a standing ovation.