YoungLiars' 'The Dispute' is Stylish, Dumb and Delightful

 In Culture

If you ever feel like there must be more to theater than The Fox or the Muny, you may be ready for the newest stage group in town, YoungLiars.

Their first show is a major update to a Restoration-era comedy, “The Dispute.” But, between the fearsome minuets at the beginning (with slashing arms and legs) and the big tribal dance number at the end, it’s more like a post-modern Vaudeville show:  hilarious and ridiculous and brilliant, in 100 different ways.

Plus, I always get a big charge out of seeing some of the most brainy, talented young performers in town reduced to absolute foolishness. It just makes me feel better about myself, somehow.


Photo by Victoria Goldstone

It’s a big, brash comedy that starts out as a scientific experiment:  to determine how young couples should get along, in spite of all the basic human flaws. But don’t worry, that’s just the opening gambit—and because people are just naturally vain and weak and jealous, all the comedy comes roaring through like a freight train with startling regularity.

Broad and silly and wonderful, the only downside is that it lowers the bar for every new real-life relationship, possibly adding years to even the worst personality combinations. So cast all your romantic idealism aside, and just embrace the flaws.

YoungLiars was founded by several of the people who survived the gentle (but unexpected) demise of forward-looking HotCity Theatre here in 2014. Chuck Harper directs “The Dispute,” and Maggie Conroy took the original 1744 play (by Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux), ran it through Google Translator, and rewrote that big mess into something truly remarkable.

There are paranoid moments with frantic lab-coated researchers (Anna Skidis and Jonah Walker), tasked with learning which gender is more prone to wickedness.  So they’ve helped to raise two boys and two girls in isolation, before turning them all loose on each other.  (But don’t worry, that’s very marginal in the overall scheme of things.)

There are also mysterious overseers (Julie Layton and Ben Watts) who hook-up the prospective lovers; and a mad playwright (Jeff Skoblow) at wit’s end over his own creations. The lovers include Ms. Conroy (the adaptor of the play) with Marcy Wiegert, Paul Cereghino and Mitch Eagles.  Together, they create something amazingly silly, and surprisingly uplifting for the heart.

Through February 26, 2016 at the Centene Center, 3547 Olive Street () just east of Grand. For more information, visit

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