Sunday, August 04, 2019

G B Shaw merrily mutilates, mystifies and maligns marital bliss in “Getting Married” @ The Shaw

George Bernard Shaw is noted for his stands on women’s liberation, religiosity and the British cast system. 

In his “Getting Married” the Irish curmudgeon is in full voice as he dissects, debunks, devalues and basically destroys the institution of marriage, while making his case for women’s rights and the ridiculousness of religious customs and practices.

Specifically, GBS “analyses and satirizes the status of marriage in Shaw's day, with a particular focus on the necessity of liberalizing divorce laws.”  And, where better to do this than on the day of a marriage.

Though generally considered one of Shaw’s lesser works, most critics agree that though it is short on action and some of the sharper barbs that are included in the Shavian lexicon, it is an excellent discussion on the foibles of the traditional Western world’s laws about marriage, divorce, having children and the role of women in the work world.

Shaw is noted for the preface to his plays where he often sets forth the views he is expressing in his scripts.  In “Getting Married” he takes the view that "Marriage remains practically inevitable.” 

“In a future society, he argued, there could be no practicable replacement for marriage, neither individually negotiated deals or unconstrained free love. Despite this, there was a very pressing question of improving its conditions. Shaw went on to argue for sensible divorce laws to protect the welfare of adults and children.”

It’s 1908. Edith, youngest daughter of Bishop Bridgenorth, is about to be married. Her uncle will give her away, as he has all her sisters. As at all the other weddings, he proposes to Lesbia, the bride's aunt, who refuses him for the "tenth and last" time. Lesbia wants a family, but not a husband who smokes and is as untidy as the General.  The General is soon shocked to find that his disreputable brother Reginald will be at the wedding. Reginald was recently divorced by his wife for assaulting her and for his adultery with a prostitute.  

Thus is laid the foundation for a battle over marriage, divorce, family values, the reproduction of children.  A pamphlet about the dangers of marriage, which is being read by both the potential bride and groom, adds to the angst.  

An attempt to write “new” rules for marriage just adds to the frustration.  Such matters as disagreement over rights and responsibilities about medical, religious, and financial matters, and how to get divorced emerge. 

As must happen, for this is a dramatic comedy, the young couple gets married, several other problematic relationships get solved, and everyone dances in the curtain call.

The Shaw’s nicely paced, often whimsical production, under the direction of Tanja Jacobs is delightful, especially the first act.

Many patrons thought the play had ended when the initial act curtain descended, only to be told there was more to come.  The second act, which brought about the final denouement, was not as fun-filled as the first.  In fact, cutting out much of it would have not left much of a hole in the writer’s intent and purpose.

The cast, which was both racially and age inclusive, sometimes with confusing results, was mostly excellent.  Standouts were Damien Atkins, Martin Happer, Stephen Sutcliffe, Graeme Somerville and Chick Reid. 

The technical aspects of the show were excellent.

Capsule judgment:  George Bernard Shaw is the master at skewering social, religious and political actions and concepts with which he disagrees.  His sharp, satirical and comedic language is put to good use in the delightful and pointed “Getting Married.”

WHAT: “Getting Married”
WHERE: Royal George Theatre
WHEN:   Runs through October 13