Peter Shaffer’s DramaLab “White Liars” Draws the Audience Into a World of Fortune Telling

Exclamations of the phrase “Lemberg never lies!” punctuated Peter Shaffer’s DramaLab “White Liars,” drawing the audience into the mysterious world of a fortune teller.

Performed on Saturday evening in the Theater Classroom, the special forty-five minute DramaLab showcased the immense talents of four Phillips Academy students.

Set in a shabby fortune telling shop in New York City, the play begins with a dialogue between Baroness Lemberg, played by Eleonora Petrulli ’11, and Frank, played by Adam Brody ’14.

The prophetic baroness impresses Frank with stories of her many encounters with famous royals and swears that she never lies when it comes to telling people’s fortunes. Frank, skeptical of her “magical powers” offers her a deal she can’t refuse: fifty dollars in exchange for her telling his friend Tom to stay away from his girlfriend.

Petrulli depicts the crazy yet heartwarming character of Baroness Lemberg with passion and understanding. Although a little narcissistic about her ability to see into people’s lives, the Baroness abides by high moral principles and believes that her deceased father is watching her from a picture in the room.

“My favorite character was the Baroness because she kept the story moving along,” said Myracle McCoy ’14.

Although Lemberg knows it is wrong to accept money for such a horrible purpose, she eagerly believes Frank’s story of how Tom is about to steal his girlfriend Sue, played by Nikita Lamba ’11, from under his nose and agrees to convince Tom that his future with Sue is plagued with disaster.

Tom, played by Ben Romero ’12, arrives and eagerly waits outside the fortune telling room. Frank exits the room and speaks with Tom, claiming that the Baroness is a sham. Tom furiously disagrees, holding on to a strong belief in the mystical powers of fortune tellers. Lemberg calls Tom into the room and begins to look into her crystal ball and unfold Tom’s troubled childhood.

Born into a motherless family in a coal mining town with an abusive father, Tom had no decision but to leave the South and follow his passion of music. She tells him about a girl in his life and warns that no good will come from the relationship. After hearing this, Tom suddenly realizes that Frank bribed Lemberg.

She protests vehemently, but finally gives in when he tells her that only Frank knew about his troubled childhood. Lemberg is disgusted by Tom and by how he stole Frank’s girlfriend but Tom has something more important to share.

He finally tells Lemberg the truth about how his entire depressing childhood is all a sham, including his fake accent. In reality he was just a rich boy from Connecticut with parents who didn’t want a musician for a son. So he moved to New York, where he met Sue and Frank, the only regulars at his weekly concerts with his band, the White Liars.

Lemberg doesn’t believe a single word coming out of Tom’s mouth. Frank had told her how he had rescued Tom, let him live in his apartment and formed his band for him. She was so enraptured by the thought of a boy stealing someone’s girlfriend that she refused to consider Tom’s side of the story.

Frank had pretended to be a freelance journalist and wanted to write a piece on undiscovered musicians in New York City. Frank would interview Tom and answer questions before Tom even had a chance to respond. In this way he created Tom’s entire childhood, and Tom couldn’t bring himself to object.

“[My favorite part of White Liars was] definitely Ben Romero’s monologue as Tom. The whole rant about his lies and living with Frank and Sue was a really powerful performance and I liked how he was able to switch tones for different parts of the monologue,” said Scherezade Khan ’12.

Frank returns and eavesdrops on the conversation going on behind the closed doors: he hears Tom reveal how he had been sleeping with Sue for three months. Outraged, Frank barges into the meeting and fights with Tom. Fed up with the drama, Tom leaves the shop and goes back home to Connecticut. As Frank sobs in the waiting room, Lemberg can’t resist asking him why he was so upset.

Wasn’t the whole plan to get rid of Tom? But alas, Frank revealed a shocking plot twist: he had been in love with Tom all along.

“My favorite part of the show was when Frank revealed that he wanted Tom to stay in his bed and out of the girl’s bed. I never saw that coming,” said McCoy.

White Liars showed insight into the troubled world of a trio trying to live in New York City and how a crazy fortune teller could have such an effect on their romantic lives. The director, Tia Baheri ’12, created a dynamic setting. Khan agreed, “Tia did an awesome job of blocking the play.” Showcasing the talent of Phillips Academy thespians, White Liars was a marvelous play with an unexpected and mind-blowing ending.