Saturday, July 28, 2012
MISALLIANCE delights as Shaw pontificates!
George Bernard Shaw was a writer with a purpose, in fact, many purposes. Each of his scripts showcases one or more of the master playwright’s views. Depending on the show, Shaw, the Socialist, took on government, the education system, the diminishment of women, stuffy propriety, parent-child relationships, Victorian standards of helplessness, and the British social class system.
In MISALLIANCE, subtitled A DEBATE IN ONE SITTING, the author uses a single conversation in a large country house in Hindhead, Surrey, to expound on his views. Of course, this is Shaw, so exaggerated personalities, less than subtle illusions, and lots of words comprise the script.
MISALLIANCE is one of Shaw’s “discussion” plays, a genre which he fathered. The style stresses interactive dialogue and verbal conflict over plot or action.
Shaw examines the role of women, the mating instincts of humans, romanticism, and social class by showcasing Hypatia, the daughter of a wealthy man who has made his fortune producing men’s underwear. She is engaged to the bright, but boring aristocrat Bentley Summerhays, but longs for adventure. And, based on the saying, “be careful what you wish for,” excitement falls into her life, when a plane crashes into the roof of her home.
The handsome pilot, Joey Percival, and his passenger, Lina Szcepanowska, a female circus acrobat, emerge from the wreckage and introduce havoc. Unhappy Gunner, who blames John Tarleton, Hypatia’s father, for his problems due to a romantic dalliance that John had with Gunner’s mother, also shows up to further complicate the goings on.
In the chaos, eight marriage proposals are offered by various people with the overriding question of whether any of them would be an auspicious alliance or a misalliance.
One of Shaw’s highlight quotes appears in MISALLIANCE: “If marriage were made by putting all the men’s names into one sack and the women’s names into another, and having them taken out by a blindfolded child like lottery numbers, there would be just as high a percentage of happy marriages as we have now.”
The Shaw’s production is delightful. The action is kept flowing by director Eda Holmes. The costumes and sets are era correct. The lighting is effective, the original music by John Gzowski enhances the play’s moods.
Pretty Krista Colosimo breathes life into Hypatia, while Ben Sandres makes for a perfect spoiled brat as her fiancé Bentley. Handsome Joey Percival is character correct as Joey, Craig Pike is believable as Gunner, and androgynous Tara Rosling steals the show as assertive Lina.
Capsule judgement: MISALLIANCE is Shaw at his humorous best. The production’s staging is excellent and the acting first class, leading to an evening of Shavian awareness and audience pleasure. This is what the Shaw Festival is all about!