Superlative Production of Bernard Shaw's
Its setting is the conservatory of the Surrey, England home of the wealthy mercantile class family of John Tarleton on a Saturday afternoon in late May, 1909. The action of the two act play is continuous and in real time.
Ames Adamson scores with a precisely modulated, richly comic rendering of the sorrowfully aging, eternally roguish paterfamilias John Tarleton. Erika Rolfsrud endearingly conveys a bemused quiet strength as his wife. Katie Fabel is delightfully impish as their unconventional daughter Hypatia. Brian Cade most amusingly captures Shaw's caricature of her pompous and clueless brother Johnny.
Matthew Sherbach similarly nails the caricature of obnoxiousness that is Bentley Summerhays, Hypatia's babyish, nastily manipulative suitor. Johnathan Gillard Daly as Lord Summerhays, former colonial governor and Bentley's father, delivers a solid portrait of patrician dignity even as his own peccadillo surfaces.
Two late arrivals "crash" the party halfway into the afternoon, propelling Misalliance into farcical high drive. Caralyn Kozlowski portraying Polish superwoman extraordinaire Lina Szczepanowska, is a dynamic comic whirlwind of staggering proportions. Robbie Simpson brings a youthful, likeable earnestness to the role of Joey Percival, Bentley's friend whose presence sets off complications. Arriving shortly after them, Matt Kleckner is deftly comedic as a daftly aggrieved young man.
The range of Shaw's humor is extraordinary. Here he applies his remarkable wit with serious intent in expounding on morality, governance, social classes, marriage, parent-child relationships, education, and morality. There is one particular treatise on colonial police administration in Misalliance, which was written over 100 years ago, which provides deep insight into police tactics in dealing with aggressive hostility in our poor inner city neighborhoods today. It is more relevant and insightful than any words that I have read or heard from a wide range of journalists and analysts. Unlike today's pundits, Shaw allows differing points of view fair expression. Additionally, he delivers a broadly comedic, farcical plot as deft, light, and hilarious as any boulevard comedy extant. Under the sure-handed and inventive direction of Stephen Brown-Field, this Shakespeare Theatre production gives full expression to each of these aspects.
Scenic designer Brian Clinnin, abetted by lighting designer Andrew Hungerford, provides a pleasingly large, bright, and airy representation of a room with a glass roof and walls, attached to a house at one side and used as a greenhouse and/or sun parlor, perfectly fulfilling the definition of a conservatory. The lush period costumes of Tilly Grimes complete the lovely visual picture.
Yea, every aspect of this production matches Shaw's exuberance, wit, precision and brilliance, making this Misalliance a delightful and refreshing breath of fresh air.
Misalliance continues performances (Evenings: Tuesday, Wednesday & Sunday 7:30 pm/ Thursday, Friday & Saturday 8 pm/ Mats: Saturday and Sunday 2 pm) through August 30, 2015, at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, on the campus of Drew University, 36 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ 07940. Box Office: 973-408-5600, online: www.shakespeareNJ.org.
Misalliance by George Bernard Shaw/ directed by Stephen Brown-Fried