Happiness in LiesHappiness in lies
Jeon Myung Assisstant Reporter  |
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승인 2005.10.01  00:00:00
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CHILDREN IN the world have been taught that lying is such a bad thing that if they lie, they will be punished like Pinocchio. In the story, Pinocchio, Pinocchio's wooden nose grows whenever he tells a lie and he must pray to a fairy to shorten his long nose. But in an internet-released cartoon, Pinocchio, he does not have to pray to the fairy. He knows how to shorten his nose: to cut it off with a saw. Now he lies whenever he needs money and sells his nose to the market to help his grandpa. Now Pinocchio's lying is no longer bad. His lies are 'white'.

Diamond in the rough
A Woman Telling a Lie is a comedy of two French writers, Jean-Jacques Bricaire and Maurice Lasaygues. It is a play written with a different view of 'lies' like that of the internet version of Pinocchio. The script was first published with the French title, La Menteuse, in a French magazine in 1982. Since then, it has been performed for years, and was dramatized for television. Despite its mediocre reputation, it was introduced to Korea by a small troupe of university students in 1996 and reworked in 1997 by director Rhee Jae-sang, after reading the script by chance and becoming enamored by it.

▲ A lovely couple? No, just Jeanne and her father, Bernard.
Woman telling a lie
The play is about a trouble caused by a woman, Jeanne, who keeps telling lies: she is a congenital mythomaniac. It begins with a quarrel between Jeanne and her boyfriend, Patrice. He is upset with her because she tells lies all the time, when asked why. She gives excuses that she wanted to be as secretive as most guys want their woman to be. He still misunderstands her and presses her so she tells a lie again like always; the lie continually grows bigger and bigger.
In the play, Jeanne tells four great lies. The first is that she is married to Bernard, her father (Patrice does not know that he is her father). The second is that her elder sister, Fran뛬ise, who is pregnant, is a surrogate mother of a famous fashion designer, Isabel (actually she is pregnant by a married man and will be a single mom). The third lie is an extension of the first one in that she is actually not married but has been raped by her father. The last is that she had an affair with Isabel's husband and was pregnant two months earlier when Patrice was away (actually, she spent the whole three months with Patrice).

▲ "Is she a surrogant mother?", wonders Patrice.
Why does she lie?
Setting aside the fact that Jeanne is suffering from a hereditary disease, she lies to make people happy. Absurd? Her lies might be, but she does please people with her reality-based and well-organized lies. To Jeanne, the truth is boring because it can never be changed. Thus she likes to tell interesting lies using her imagination and creativity. Bernard enjoys playing the roles that she gives him whenever she comes up with a brilliant lie: he was at various times a spy, millionaire, fake-bill forger, and finally he plays a dumb husband whose wife cheats on him. Sometimes her lies bring luck, too: by coincidence, Fran뛬ise finally gets chances to interview Isabel and to keep her job as a journalist of a fashion magazine, with the help of Jeanne's lie.
Jeanne may not be a "congenital" mythomaniac. Rather, her disease may have been caused by people who forced or led her to tell a lie like Patrice. In the play, Patrice represents a typical modern man. He is a scientist and wants everything to be logical and clear like an equation that has a definite answer. His way of seeing things is one-sided, and develops an allergy to people who live extraordinary lives. Moreover, he is impatient, always pushing Jeanne too far, to which she responds, "Are you listening to me or just pretending?" or "It was hard to talk with you without distorting the truth because you just did not try to believe what I said!" In short, Jeanne is the voice of a modern socialite who lives an unexciting life but dreams of deviating from it. At the same time, she is also an activist who criticizes and tries to change the society that does not acknowledge individuals.

What Jeanne's lies imply
Like any other French comedy, the play, A Woman Telling a Lie flows very fast and the relationships between characters are even more dynamic. It is a little bit confusing to catch what the message of the play is since it is easy to misunderstand the point for lying being a good thing; the real message is that we have to improve our imagination. Jeanne has an imaginative vein and even spreads her 'imaginary virus' to others, helping people widen their view and ease the way they think. In that way, she shares her happiness with others and at the end of the play Patrice calls it, "The happiness in lies".

Flaw on the diamond
However, the play lacks one of the important features of a comedy: a continuous rise of dramatic tension in the play is often disturbed by the controversial themes of incest and surrogate mothers. Such themes stray from the established light-hearted mood. What is more, they not only distract the attention of the audience, but make the actors hesitate to fully express the feeling of their characters. That is due to the translation that still contains French sentiments rather than the director creating his own adaptation. Adapting would not have ruined the original intention of the author, but perhaps, he left the script unchanged to encourage the audience to embrace and understand the minority of a society who is blamed for not following the way of the majority like he said in the interview.

How to enjoy the play
To fully enjoy the play, here are a couple of tips. First, pay careful attention to what "she" or "her" refers to in the characters' quarrels. Second, try to catch the hilarious paradoxes and ironies that often pop up during the play; specifically lines like "I'm the last person to tell a lie" that Jeanne says and "Jeanne is the only credible person in her house" that Isabel cries out.

In the last part of the play, Jeanne confesses that some of her lies were tests to see if Patrice really loves her, and Patrice, who left her, comes back after realizing that true love is understanding and believing. The play ends with Jeanne's uncle suddenly returning from a journey, leaving the people stunned on the stage because they had considered him to be the man of her imagination. It does not matter how it happened. If they are happy with his return, it would be OK to live happily in lies, or rather happily in imagination.

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