From left: Aaron Krohn as King Henry V, Bethany Jillard as Catherine, Richard Binsley as King Charles VI, Claire Lautier as Queen Isabel and Xuan Fraser as the Duke of Burgundy with members of the company in Henry V. Photography by David Hou.
Reviewed by James Karas
Henry V is the third and final play by William Shakespeare offered by the Stratford Shakespeare Festival this year. Yes, that makes it three out of fourteen but that’s how the cookie crumbles and you can stick Charlie Brown up your nose.
The production is directed by Des McAnuff, the Festival’s Artistic Director, and expectations are high. It is his last production as Artistic Director and no doubt he wants to go out with a bang. Unfortunately the final result falls somewhat short of any hopes of theatrical achievement in Shakespearean production. To put it more succinctly, McAnuff’s production registers more as a whimper. It combines the worst traits of Stratfordian productions with none of the virtues to counterbalance them. No doubt I should add polite qualifiers such as “perhaps” or “some” or “most” but the production is fresh in my mind and such politesse seems unnecessary.
Henry V opens with a character called the Chorus who delivers a colourful Prologue lamenting that so grand a subject as the story of the warrior king is to be told on the “unworthy scaffold” of a theatre. The speech can be delivered with rhetorical flourishes and thus kick start the play.
When the lights went on in the current production, a couple of dozen actors, dressed in their street clothes, sauntered on to the stage, some carrying stools and about a dozen of them recited a couple of lines or so of the Prologue. It looked like a first rehearsal and the director was sounding out the actors to see who is suitable for what role.
The Chorus may lament that the stage is not big enough for so large a subject but McAnuff will have none of that. He thinks he can create enough energy, motion and sheer theatrical excitement to make the Chorus eat his words.
Shakespeare’s text is not always easy on an audience and directors frequently try to alleviate that difficulty by creating stage business. Have characters run on and off the stage, add trumpets, trombones, noise effects, anything, to keep the audience’s attention.
In this production, McAnuff adds so many such tricks that the text seemed to interfere with the pageantry at times. Disrespect for the text by using sundry devices is what I mean by Stratfordian “vices”.
We expect to hear Shakespeare’s language delivered by actors who know the difference between poetry and prose and can give us some of the rhythm of the iambic pentameters. In this production most of the actors seemed tone deaf. Some of them like Richard Bonsley as King Charles VI spoke so quickly one, wondered if he was just trying to finish his shift.
Aaron Krohn as Henry V must take most of the opprobrium for delivering a flat, uninspired performance. He has some great speeches but he could not (or was not allowed) to deliver even a decent rhyming couplet. He lacked any stage presence and despite and perhaps because of all the noise and hoopla around him, gave a performance below any level that we have the right to expect from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
There is a funny English lesson that Catherine (Bethany Jillard), the daughter of Kong Charles gets from Alice (Deborah Hay), her lady-in-waiting. The scene contains some very raunchy language, not all of it easy to understand today, but there is one word that is crystal clear and it is contained in the word Count. McAnuff buries the joke. The irony is that Catherine is shown naked in a bathtub. He is willing to give us a bit of flesh but the text is not that important.
Falstaff’s companions (Randy Hughson, Tom Rooney, Christopher Prentice and Sophia Walker) were very good as the low class and sometimes low-life Londoners. The best was Lucy peacock as the Hostess who captured the rhythm and emotional wavelength of the language and the character in an exceptional performance. It was not enough to save the production.
McAnuff brings everything on the stage: flags, banners, cannons, a hanging, a chorus to sing and battle scenes. All the stuff that the Chorus (the speaking character, not the singers), wanted us to imagine.
We may have been forgiving if all of that were accompanied by a few more actors who could speak Shakespeare with the poetic feel that all his language requires. In other words, if McAnuff had started with the text, paid it due respect and then went for the paraphernalia that every director must bring to his interpretation of the play.
In the end we got a lot of sound and fury, signifying very little.
Henry V by William Shakespeare opened on July 13 and will run in repertory until September 29, 2012 at the Festival Theatre, Stratford, Ontario. www.stratfordfestival.ca
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Monday, July 23, 2012
Poto copyright is P.Berger / Artcomart.Reviewed by James Karas
David is best known as the slayer of Goliath and the subject of a statue by Michelangelo that defines male beauty and virility. Less well known is his relationship with Jonathan, the son of King Saul, which was deep and perhaps homosexual. It is that subject the Marc-Antoine Charpentier took for his subject for David et Jonathas, his opera that premiered in 1688 and is offered by the Aix-en-Provence Festival this year.
In the Prologue, a distraught King Saul visits a Witch and a batch of demons. I suppose Witches and Demons can live anywhere and take whatever shape they want, but in the current production at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, we meet them in a paneled room. The Witch is sitting on a wooden chair and is wearing an ordinary dress with a white apron. She could be a housewife or a bakery worker. The Demons look like photocopies of the Witch. We are definitely not in ancient Israel or 17th century France.
David et Jonathas was composed for the students of a Jesuit school. After some initial successes it was ignored until recently. Thanks largely to Christie, it is seeing a well-deserved revival.
Director Andreas Homoki and conductor William Christie have transposed the Prologue to the end of Act III but it is a good example of their approach to the opera.
Unfortunately, Homoki and Christie give us more of a recreation than a revival. For familiar works, one wants, indeed, demands, that the director bring a vision and interpretation that is original, personal, even startling. With a relatively unknown work, I would have preferred a more traditional approach rather than something that is modern and appears quite ill-suited to the opera. Good wine may taste the same in new bottles but the leaving it in its original container may be more appropriate.
The set designed by Paul Zoller consists of a paneled box that can be sub-divided into several boxes. The paneling is of light wood. A few chairs and tables of the same material are about all the props that are used. In other words, the biblical story takes place nowhere.
The costumes are modern with some indications of Middle Eastern garb of indeterminate chronology. King Saul wears a vest and a shirt and he looks like a shop owner in New York, Toronto or Jerusalem. The rest of the characters and chorus range from the look of escapees from a Siberian prison, women from the street of some Muslim city and ordinary workers from the 1950’s when men still wore Fedora hats.
If there is an overall vision related to the set and costumes, it escaped me totally.
Charpentier and his librettist wanted to tell the story of the friendship of David and Jonathan and the struggles between the Israelis and the Philistines. We can be certain that Père François de Paule Bretonneau, the Jesuit who wrote the libretto and Charpentier did not wish to show a homosexual relationship. In this production the two men embrace and kiss and are openly gay. That may be a legitimate interpretation of the opera but it has nothing to do with what was put down in 1688.
There are numerous scenes of domestic life, much of it showing doubles for David and Jonathan as children happily running around during brief orchestral interludes. I am not sure where this comes from or where it is going. I found it annoying and confusing
The opera does contain some beautiful music and splendid vocal pieces but this production’s lack of fidelity to the original style and the uneasy transposition to a modern milieu leaves one in the middle of nowhere. It is not done in a kind of baroque style and it is not a modern opera to fit the style chosen by Homoki.
Pascal Charbonneau as David has a fine tenor voice but the role should be sung in Baroque style with flourishes and colorations suitable to the period. The same applies to soprano Ana Quintans as Jonathan. King Saul is sung by bass-baritone Neal Davies and he looks like a shopkeeper who is having a bad day or many bad days.
The singers deserve kudos for their performances as construed by Homoki and Christie, badly conceived as the production may be. Achis is sung Frédéric Caton, Joabel by Kresimir Spicer and the Witch by Dominique Visse.
The final result is a confusing and misconceived production that serves no one well.
David et Jonathas by Marc-Antoine Charpentier was performed six times between July 6 and 19, 2012 at the Théâtre de l'Archevêché, Aix-en-Provence, France. http://festival-aix.com/
Friday, July 20, 2012
Reviewed by James Karas
La Finta Giardiniera is one of Mozart’s less known operas but the Aix-en-Provence Festival gives it a solid production outdoors at the Domaine du Grand Saint-Jean. It was Mozart’s seventh opera when he composed it at the ripe old age of 18. Musically it is Mozartean splendor but the plot is so tortuous as to be torturous. Most opera houses give La Finta a wide berth and even the Aix-en-Provence Festival is mounting it only for the second time in its 64 years of existence.
The production is directed by Vincent Boussard who also designed the costumes. He takes a light approach as becomes an opera buffa but inevitably suffers some setbacks because of Giuseppe Petrosellini’s libretto with its inanities, complications and simple length. But he has Mozart’s music on his side: superb arias and ensemble pieces that make the whole thing worthwhile.
The Marquise Violante Onasti is almost murdered by her fiancé, runs away disguised as a gardener named Sandrina. Just ignore the green dress that soprano Layla Claire in the role is wearing and listen to her lovely voice, full of expression and wonderful coloration. She will be given a better dress later on but her singing will be superb throughout.
Count Belfiore, her fiancé and would be-murderer, is sung by tenor Julian Prégardien, who dashes around the stage quite a bit. He is eventually redeemed from his moral and legal faux pas and manages to do a good singing job in the meantime.
Soprano Ana Maria Labin sings the snooty Arminda. She is beautifully gowned and gets some marvelous arias, including “Si promette facilmente” and “Vorrei punirti, indegno” where she very dramatically threatens her lover with cardiovascular surgery.
Don Ramiro is sung by mezzo-soprano Julie Robard-Gendre. This is a pants role that was originally sung by a castrato. It demands some vocal flourishes and trills that may come more easily to a countertenor. La Finta does demand a few such flourishes that some of singers attempted without much success. Robard-Gendre did have to wear a ridiculous wig but the costume was not as bad as some of the others.
Soprano Sabine Devieilhe sang the role of the servant Serpetta. She was outfitted with a white apron over a dress and I am not sure what century she was in. That goes generally for the costumes which suggested 18th century beginnings with unknown destinations. Devieilhe was good of voice and quick of foot as most servants must be in opera.
Tenor Colin Balzer played the Mayor for all the comedy that could be eked out of the role. Baritone John Chest was Nardo, the other servant, who is played for laughs and he was quite adept at his role.
La Finta in addition to having a complex and awful plot is very, very long. The performance that started at 8:30 lasted until almost midnight with one intermission. Even with some cuts, this was very long and by the end, the performance had started losing steam. Boussard and Conductor Andreas Spering would have been well advised to excise some more parts.
The venue is a small, makeshift theatre behind a chateau. To the left you see the back wall of the chateau while to the right fields of grass and trees stretch as far as the eye can see. The stage is a bare triangle and a few chairs, some lights and a curtain are about all the props that are required.
The surtitles are projected on the chateau wall but they are not visible until darkness falls, which is about an hour after the performance begins. For a while the cicadas compete with the orchestra but even they settle down to listen to Mozart’s music as performed by Le Cercle de l’Harmonie Orchestra under the capable baton of Andreas Spering.
In the end, grumble as one may, you still get a wonderful night at the opera under the gorgeous sky of Provence.
La Finta Giardiniera by W. A. Mozart opened on July 8 and will be performed on various dates until July 26, 2012 at the Domaine du Grand Saint-Jean, Aix-en-Provence, France. http://festival-aix.com/
Sunday, July 15, 2012
Reviewed by James Karas
The Aix-en-Provence Festival gets pride of place this year in premiering a new opera at its main venue, the Grand Theatre du Provence. Written on Skin by George Benjamin was commissioned by the Festival along with four other opera companies. The libretto is by playwright Martin Crimp and Katie Mitchell was brought in from England to direct the work. That is a powerful team.
The opera is based on a very dramatic medieval story that is simple in its outline but complex in its telling by Crimp. The Protector (Christopher Purves), a wealthy and dictatorial landowner, hires the Boy (Bejun Mehta) to prepare an illuminated book celebrating his life. The time is around 1200 A.D. and books are scarce, expensive and indeed written on skin.
The Protector’s beautiful and illiterate wife Agnès seduces The Boy. The Protector becomes suspicious but the Boy pretends that he made to love to Marie (Rebecca Jo Loeb), Agnès’s sister. The Boy writes a sensuous description of his love-making with Agnès which he describes as hell, but his secret is out and The Protector murders him.
In an act of vengeance The Protector forces his wife to eat The Boy’s heart and she eventually commits suicide by jumping off a balcony. That is an indeed a dramatic story with fascinating mythical connections even in bare outline.
Crimp does not tell the story in linear fashion. There are three Angels who turn into the Boy, Marie and her husband John. The Angels “live” on one side of the stage, in the present, while the medieval characters occupy the other side of the stage. The story is often told in the third person and there is the Brechtian “epic theatre” notion of letting us know that a story is being told rather than an encounter with reality.
So far so good, Enter composer Benjamin. The opera opens with the Angels singing about stripping present civilization and going back. This is accompanied by dissonant music.
The Protector and Agnes enter and one of the Angels becomes The Boy. The story unfolds through the encounters in medieval times with segments under the fluorescent lights of the present.
There are flashes of musical activity but most of the opera is sung through, slowly, very slowly, to the point of sheer motionlessness. There are some vocal flourishes but much of it is recitatives and declamatory singing that ranges from the bearable to the simply boring. In short, aside from some dramatic and some lyrical segments, I did not like Benjamin’s music at all.
Director Mitchells keeps the action moving as best she can but some of the scenes take so long you have difficulty maintaining your interest even in a dramatic story such as the one unfolding in front of you.
Soprano Barbara Hannigan as Agnès is the most sympathetic character of the opera. She is treated like property by her brute of a husband and her discovery of love and passion lead to her destruction. She sings well during the few vocal flourishes that she is given.
Countertenor Bejun Mehta is The Boy and Angel 1. He bears some physical resemblance to The Protector and there is sexual tension between the two. It is one of the fascinating turns in the plot that would be fascinating in a play but fails to be fully developed in the slow-motion progress of the story under the weight of Benjamin’s music.
Mezzo-soprano Rebecca Jo Loeb stepped in to replace the ailing Victoria Simmonds as Angel 2 and Marie. Angel 3 and John were played by tenor Allan Clayton.
The composer conducted the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.
The opera is sung in English with French surtitles and it was not always easy to follow the text without resorting to the surtitles.
Not everyone shared my negative reaction to the opera. At the end, the audience gave the composer, librettist and director an extended and enthusiastic standing ovation. Some people dashed out as soon as the curtain started descending and others stood up politely and kept their hands at their sides but the majority registered whole-hearted approval. There is no accounting for taste!
Written on Skin by George Benjamin (music), Martin Crimp (libretto) opened on July 7 and will be performed four times until July 14, 2012 at the Grand Théâtre de Provence, Aix-en-Provence, France. http://festival-aix.com/
Friday, July 13, 2012
Reviwed by James Karas
L’Enfant et les Sortilèges is a one-act gem of an opera by Maurice Ravel based on a libretto by Colette. It is a rarely seen piece but it is one of the operas offered by the Aix-en-Provence Festival at the small Théâtre du Jeu de Paume.
L’Enfant is a wonderful fairy tale about a naughty boy who is disciplined by his mother and takes revenge by destroying everything around him. He breaks a teapot and a teacup, mangles his toys, and tears up his school notebooks and the furniture. He terrorizes the animals including the cat and the squirrel by locking them up in a cage.
All of that is done very quickly because the crux of the opera is the reaction of the objects and the animals to the boy’s mistreatment and destruction. They all come to life to take revenge on the naughty child.
L’Enfant is a large work and the Festival has opted for a “chamber” production. The score that requires a full orchestra has been scaled down by Didier Puntos to be played by a flute (Anne-Lise Teruel), a cello (William Imbert) and piano for four hands (played Didier Puntos and Michalis Boliakis).
There are nineteen characters played by eight singers who take up from one to four roles. (The original opera has 21 characters but two have been cut out from the present production.) The musicians are on stage and the relatively small playing space does restrict some of the opportunities for action but other than that the opera is very well staged, perfectly paced and a pleasure to see and hear.
Soprano Chloé Briot played the naughty boy. She is a petite woman who sang well, managed to look and act very boyish and moved with the agility and naughtiness of a youngster.
Argentinean soprano Mercedes Arcuri gets to be the menacing Fire and the sweetly-singing Nightingale and did well in both parts. The Princess, The Bat and The Shepherdess are sung by soprano Clémence Tilquin. She sings the beautiful and haunting aria “Ah! Oui, c’est elle, la Princesse enchantée” – she is the boy’s first love whom he has destroyed by tearing up his book!
Mezzo-soprano Eve-Maud Hubeaux is the pleading Mother, the Chinese Cup and the Dragonfly. Baritone Guillaume Andrieux is the broken-down clock who has lost his pendulum and can no longer tell time. Andrieux also gets to meow as the Cat.
Tenor Valerio Contaldo prances around as the Teapot with the spout appearing as a supersized penis while Eve-Maud Hubeaux’s Chinese Cup has an enticing opening around her chest ready for the tea to be poured in.
The Armchair that starts the rebellion against the naughty child is played by baritone Jean-Gabriel Saint-Martin and The White Cat, the Squirrel and the Bergère are handled by mezzo-soprano Majdouline Zerari.
The ensemble deserves a collective compliment. The opera consists of numerous short pieces that involve dancing and acting as much as singing. It is the telling of a fairy tale and the furniture, the animals, the insects and the birds appear in quick succession. The opera involves quick costume and scene changes and ensemble performances. This troupe excels at the job.
Ravel described L’Enfant et les Sortilèges as a lyrical fantasy and thus perhaps gave himself the freedom to compose in a number of musical styles. The opera goes from classical, to jazz, to ragtime to music hall music with some abandon. It calls for a large orchestra and chorus and that is what this production is unable to deliver. The musicians get the message across but a full production in a larger theatre combined with, say, Ravel’s L’Heure Espagnole would be far more fulfilling.
The direction by Arnaud Meunier is impeccable and the costumes by Anna Autran are excellent. The fairy tale is told in a marvelous fashion and my only complaint would be that we could have used a bit more light. The lighting designed by Philippe Berthomé veers towards the dark and shadowy a bit too much.
Aside from that, this was a fascinating and outstanding fifty minutes at the opera.
L’Enfant et les Sortilèges by Maurice Ravel in a chamber version by Didier Puntos opened on July 6 and will be performed on various dates until July 20, 2012 at the Théâtre du Jeu de Paume, Aix-en-Provence, France. http://festival-aix.com/
Sunday, July 8, 2012
Reviewed by James Karas
The Aix-en-Provence Festival’s 64th season offers an eclectic selection of operas as well as a number of concerts to make that beautiful medieval city a cultural centre second to none. The Festival runs from July 5 to 27, 2012.
This year’s opener was Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro with Le Cercle de l’Harmonie Orchestra conducted by Jérémie Rhorer in a production directed by Richard Brunel. Now we all know that The Marriage of Figaro takes place in the castle or at least the grand residence of Count Almaviva. Men of rank wear wigs, women wear beautiful gowns and their world is very different from ours.
Directors have rightly taken different approaches to the opera from traditional 18th century settings to having the action take place in the Trump Tower in New York City. Brunel for this production has veered towards a modern view of the opera with some interesting results.
He places the opera in the offices of a modern law office. There is a receptionist, filing rooms, banker’s boxes, staff milling around and all the paraphernalia of a very ordinary office environment. Count Alamviva is the “boss” of this office and his apartment is attached to his place of work. The Count’s law practice requires much more staff than Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo da Ponte provided so Brunel just throws them in, some in legal gowns.
Some of the office workers seem to buy their clothes from the Salvation Army while others are a notch above that dress code.
In the famous opening scene, Figaro is happily measuring his bedroom in anticipation of marrying the lovely Susanna. In this production, his bedroom is somewhere in the law offices of the Count’s and all he and Susanna get is a convertible couch that is unceremoniously dropped in the office. It is not stated, but it seemed to me that the wily Figaro is a law clerk rather than the Count’s valet.
Almaviva in this production is a hands-on lawyer who comes in and out of his office and a very jealous husband who wants to seduce Suzanna, his wife’s maid. The aristocratic Count of Mozart’s opera is indeed jealous and suspicious but he is not without authority and some dignity. By the end of the opera he makes a fool of himself but he shows nobility in his repentance.
In this production, Almaviva (played by baritone Paulo Szot) is a horny employer who under normal circumstances would be before the Discipline Committee of the Law Society if not in front of a judge for sexual harassment. By placing the opera in a law office, Brunel reduces the stature of the Count as well.
This is highly unfortunate and a waste of the talent of Szot. He has a marvelous voice and physical presence. He is well suited for the role and given the chance could inspire respect and develop as I believe the character is intended to be.
The Countess is a woman of beauty and elegance who is spurned by her husband. We see her in her chamber where she sings the gorgeous arias “Porgi Amor” and “Dove Sono”. In this production not only does she does not have an elegant chamber but seems to live in a sewing room with several workers. Her dress is at best ordinary. Soprano Malin Byström has a velvet voice and she sings the countess’s arias with sustained beauty and emotion but there is something missing.
When the countess sings “Porgi Amor” in the sewing room, there are workers present (she is supposed to be lamenting the loss of love alone) and, worse, she sings “Dove sono” in a room full of chairs where the Count and several other characters are present.
What is missing in her arias and in the whole production is a connection to who the characters are, where they belong and where Brunel puts them. There is a disconnect or a divide between what these people say they are and what they are supposed to be in this production.
American bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen has a fine voice and sings a good Figaro. He wears a three-piece suit and does some office work for the Count. He is acceptable as a character in the circumstances but he is certainly not allowed to be the free-wheeling spirit that Figaro represents. Three-piece suit, indeed.
Soprano Patricia Petibon has a sweet voice and did a fine job as Susanna if you only listened to her. She was dressed in an ugly sweater and skirt and her shock of red hair was gathered in a bun on the top of her head. In short, she looked like the cleaning lady and why the boss would pursue her is a question to be asked.
Mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey made a very nimble, almost farcical, Cherubino. He/she is stripped down to her underwear but the slightly-built singer performed with fervor and vocal agility.
Bass Mario Luperi was Bartolo and he delivered “La Vendetta,” his great aria, with more histrionics and punctuation than it was necessary. The aria requires passion and conviction but in the end it also requires control and coldness. Vengeance is best delivered cold and Luperi should have been told to tone it down.
The final scene in the garden brought everything to a crashing end. Brunel allowed other characters to enter and exit – they had no business being there. Parts of the revolving stage walls and doors were pushed around and the effect was numbing.
There are numerous small and larger complaints in a misconceived production that good singing could not rescue.
Conductor Rhorer started a bit slowly with the overture but picked up momentum and carried the orchestra superbly.
The Marriage of Figaro by W. A. Mozart opened on July 5 and will be performed on various dates until July 27, 2012 at the Théâtre de l'Archevêché, Aix-en-Provence, France. http://festival-aix.com/
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Final scene of Pelleas et Melisande. Photo © Antoni. Bofill
Reviewed by James Karas
Claude Debussy’s only opera, Pelléas et Mélisande, calls for a spring in a forest, scenes in a palace, a well in a park and a scene in the vaults of the palace. The composer did tell us that it is “ A Lyric Drama in five acts and twelve scenes” so there should be no surprise about the venue changes. From its premiere in 1902, it has been a difficult work to stage and appreciate. Its complex symbolism, impressionistic music and lack of any memorable melodies were not a good recipe for a runaway hit. One hundred and ten years later, it has established itself solidly in the repertoire and the current production at Barcelona’s marvelous Gran Teatre del Liceu combines a marvelous opera with a stunning production by Robert Wilson.
My full review may be read here:
Monday, July 2, 2012
Reviewed by James Karas
At the end of Bernard Shaw’s Misalliance, one of the characters says “I suppose there’s nothing more to be said.” The reply, spoken fervently, is “Thank goodness.”
The last words are no doubt meant to be taken ironically and not as an expression of relief that the play is finally over. The audience in the largely empty Royal George Theatre where Misalliance is now playing seemed to be more relieved than impressed with the production and the play.
The Shaw Festival offers 11 plays on 4 stages for its 51st season but only two of them are by Shaw. I don’t think that it is so much disloyalty to the playwright as a realization that many of his plays will not fill the theatre. Still, 2 out of 11 leaves the Festival that bears the Irish playwright’s name paying little more than lip service to him.
What do you get from this production of Misalliance? Shaw wrote the play in 1909 and 1910 and called it “A debate in one sitting.” The problem is figuring out what the characters are debating. Love, marriage, family, social position, socialism, they all come into play with some wit, much erudition but very little focus.
We have John Tarleton (Thom Marriott), the wealthy owner of Tarleton Underwear who has a wife and two children, Hypatia (Krista Colosimo) and Johnny (Jeff Meadows). John Tarleton is a self-made man from the lower classes and Marriott attempts a working-class English accent which he does very badly and speaks so quickly that he muffles some words. After that, you could take him for a gruff but not stupid businessman.
Meadows’ s Johnny is somewhat hyperactive and in fact he could be a psychopath. I am not sure if that is what Shaw intended.
Hypatia is a central character of the play. She is an intelligent woman who is not allowed to do much except perhaps find a husband. The current candidate is Bentley Summerhays (Ben Sanders), who is a simply pathetic character, a sniveling wimp, and she will shortly give him up for the manlier Joey Percival (Wade Bogert-O’Brien).
The Tarletons are in the country home on a weekend in 1962. Hypatia is dressed in a sleeveless dress that is so ugly and unbecoming, I wondered if there is some joke that I did not get. Wealth with no taste perhaps but it does not quite work. Mrs. Tarleton in the hands of Catherine McGregor seems like a sensible woman, nicely dressed as if going to some function. I am not sure what Designer Judith Bowden was up to.
Peter Krantz as Lord Summerhays represents the conservative, upper class and even with a not-completely satisfactory English accent he is good.
The plot gets a boost, if that is the right word, when Lina Szczepanowska (Tara Rosling) and Joey Percival drop in from the sky, literally, as their plane lands on the roof of the Tarleton house. Being unable to pronounce those “foreign names” used to be a lot funnier at one time and foreigners themselves were far more colourful. Rosling speaks with an atrocious accent and her Lina is a non-starter.
Director Eda Holmes has moved the play from 1910 to 1962 for no good reason that I could detect. The social milieu, talk of empire and the state of marriage are 1910 vintage when there was an empire. Placing everything in 1962 makes no sense at all.
Misalliance can be done in a way so that the humour produces some genuine laughter and the arguments appear more interesting if not scintillating. Eda Holmes’ approach, unfortunately, did not work particularly well.
Misalliance by Bernard Shaw will run in repertory until October 27, 2012 at the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. www.shawfest.com.