THEATER REVIEW: The Truth About ‘Honest Liars’

A scene from "Honest Liars"

BY ARAM KOUYOUMDJIAN

It was really funny. I wouldn’t fib about that.

Vahik Pirhamzei’s latest outing, “Honest Liars” (Azniv Sdakhosner), which closed on February 12, was a rollicking romp, thanks to a script heavy on laughs and a cast heavy on talent.

The premise of the play, written by Pirhamzei and Hakob Rubinyan, was a trifle. It revolved around a ruse concocted by a young woman named Anna – babysitter to married couple Armen and Angele – to pass off her employers as her parents to her fiancé and future in-laws. Anna resorts to the ruse after a falling out with her own parents and despite the fact that Armen and Angele are barsgahai (from Iran), while Anna herself is hayasdantsi (from Armenia). Drinking and hilarity ensue once the fiancé and his parents show up with secrets of their own.

“Honest Liars” doesn’t aim for believability – just belly laughs. And it delivers – through clever writing and skilled acting. Pirhamzei’s flair for comedy was on full display as he impressively directed – and headed – a strong cast comprised of Anahid Avanesian, Hakob Baboudjian, Rafael Danielian, Eleanora Khachatryan, and Lusine Sargsyan.

Pirhamzei’s humor was as fresh and genuine as ever. Sprinkled with an adult sensibility, it skewered stereotypes and frequently tackled contemporary social mores – almost to a fault. Packed with entirely too much material, “Honest Liars” stretched into a three-hour evening after its late start and long intermission. A plotline about a forgotten anniversary was elaborately set up, then mostly ignored, and the play indulged a number of tangents before regaining its course.

Am I really complaining about having too much of a good thing? Perhaps. But a bit of streamlining would enhance the play, as would a venue more suitable than the beyond-awful Beyond the Stars “theater,” where the cramped chairs were arranged upon the belief that audience members lack upper limbs. The discomfort of the seating, however, paled in comparison with the pain of sitting through commercials – yes, commercials – before the show’s start and during intermission.

None of that seemed to matter to the capacity audience that was laughing its collective head off the night I attended a performance. There’s no question that Pirhamzei has a devoted following – and deservedly so.

Aram Kouyoumdjian is the winner of Elly Awards for both playwriting (“The Farewells”) and directing (“Three Hotels”). His latest work is “Happy Armenians.”

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