Advertisement

On Theater: 'Misalliance' makes grand return

September 23, 2010|Tom Titus
  • Philip Bushell charms a doubting Karen Wray in “The Rainmaker” at the Newport Theater Arts Center.
Philip Bushell charms a doubting Karen Wray in “The…

One might be forgiven for anticipating reams of social commentary on a variety of 19th century topics — ranging from socialism to women's rights to class warfare — from a George Bernard Shaw comedy.

And while "Misalliance," the season opener at South Coast Repertory, contains all these things in a package approaching three hours, it also packs a punch. Director Martin Benson, a veteran of Shavian staging, has infused the production with two essential elements, volume and animated energy, that make those three hours pass rapidly.

"Misalliance" was written a full 100 years ago, yet the SCR rendition comes across the footlights with a 21st century immediacy, thanks to Benson's minutely creative direction and a top-notch cast. The dialogue is not only declaimed, it's hammered into place with a vengeance.

Shaw placed his action in the spacious solarium belonging to a blustery millionaire, who gained his fortune manufacturing men's underwear, and whose dissatisfied daughter is being courted by the wimpiest kid on the block. Others drop in — some literally, from the sky — and stir a delicious confection of words, wisdom and wackiness.

Advertisement

Two performances stand out in a highly impressive ensemble. The always-forceful Dakin Matthews devours the stage as the garment mogul who's read just about everything (he incessantly advises others to "read" this or that author) and draws on a fountain of energy that decries his age. And Melanie Lora excels wonderfully as his daughter Hypatia (Patsy), who seeks to clamp a lid on all this talk and yearns for a little personal fulfillment.

The whining wimp is played to perfection by Wyatt Fenner, who'll get on your nerves but in a highly entertaining manner. Daniel Bess is less successful as Lora's stuffy brother, while Richard Doyle turns in a solid performance as Fenner's titled father, who harbors a letch for Lora's character. Amelia White is the soul of propriety as Matthews' wife.

A plane's crash landing (not long after the Wright brothers first explored the sky) injects a farcical note into the proceedings, bringing with it a stiff upper-lipped pilot (Peter Katona) and his seductive Polish passenger (Kirsten Potter) who's lusted after by young and old, both stymied at the pronunciation of her surname (Szczepanowska).

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles
|
|
|