Back in Moliere’s time, his plays were popular because of their topicality and their irreverence. To modern audiences, though, Moliere can seem a bit stiff at times. Well, that certainly isn’t the case with “The School for Lies” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. From the beginning of the opening monologue by Philinte (a hysterically funny Sean Fortunato), it becomes immediately clear that this is not your typical Moliere. “The School for Lies” is David Ives’ adaptation of Moliere’s “The Misanthrope.” Mr. Ives takes some very interesting liberties with the original play, cutting a character and changing several key plot points, but the result is a constantly engaging, contemporary farce that has the audience howling at one moment, and groaning the next. Frank (Ben Carlson), a misanthropic curmudgeon who has disdain for everything and everyone, returns to France after having spent time in England. Frank meets the beautiful, sought-after Celimene (Deborah Hay) and her foppish bevy of suitors: Clitander (Paul Slade Smith), Oronte (Greg Vinkler) and Acaste (Kevin Gudahl). Frank’s refusal to be anything but honest quickly alienates everyone in the house except for the sexually repressed virgin Eliante (Heidi Kettenring, who, in my opinion, has the play’s funniest [but unprintable] line), who falls hard for Frank’s rude manner. Frank spreads a rumor that Philinte likes to dress in women’s clothes, a rumor that manifests itself beautifully in act two. Things resolve themselves in a very funny, somewhat unexpected fashion, especially if you know the original Moliere play. Artistic Director Barbara Gaines has expertly cast and directed this production. When all hell breaks loose late in the play, it is clear that she knew exactly how to craft this chaos. It only looks effortless. Ben Carlson as Frank and Deborah Hay as Celimene, a married couple in real life, beautifully mine the depths of their very complex love story. As the three potential suitors for Celimene’s hand, Paul Slade Smith, Greg Vinkler and Kevin Gudahl provide a ridiculous counterpoint to Frank’s straightforward manner. Sean Fortunato hilariously provides the Deus ex Machina in act two. Heidi Kettenring is terrific as the sexually frustrated Eliante, Judith-Marie Bergan’s Arsinoe is perfectly imperious, and Samuel Taylor plays the dual role of the servants with a great comic energy. “The School for Lies” is one of the most polished productions I have seen at Chicago Shakespeare. Definitely a must-see.