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Regional Reviews by Bill Eadie

Pygmalion

Also see Bill's review of An American Story


Kandis Chappell and
Robert Sean Leonard

It's old home week at the Old Globe, with five Associate Artists and one new Associate Artist gathering to put a 100th anniversary production of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion on stage. And a sumptuous production it is, reminding long-time Globe audience members of days gone by and perhaps signaling a new era at the Globe for audience members of any stripe.

The Associate Artist program has honored those who had made repeated quality contributions to Old Globe productions, and audiences would see their names frequently in the programs. In more recent years, though, the program stayed out of the spotlight, and only a small number of names were added to the Associate Artist list./p>

It's a treat to see four of these artists—Kandis Chappell, Don Sparks, Deborah Taylor and Paxton Whitehead—working on stage together, wearing Robert Morgan's glamorous costumes, and being directed with style and grace by Nicholas Martin, the newest honoree.

And, oh yes, Robert Sean Leonard is starring as Professor Henry Higgins.

Performing on Alexander Dodge's clever rotating sets and under a lighting design by Philip S. Rosenberg that does the job while never calling attention to itself, the production feels as comfortable as the pair of reindeer-skin gloves that Higgins ordered Eliza (Charlotte Perry) to bring him. The opening scene outside the Covent Garden Opera House is chaotic, but as soon as Mr. Whitehead's (Colonel Pickering) dulcet tones are heard, chaos gives way to a feeling that all's right with the world.

When the action moves to Higgins' laboratory, a similar unease descends until Don Sparks makes his entrance as the comic philosopher, Mr. Doolittle. And then, once again, all's right with the world.

Similarly, when the scene moves to the home of Higgins' mother, an in-charge Ms. Chappell shows why she has been for many years a Globe audience favorite, as she delivers Shaw's feminist zingers with both aplomb and complete glee. Hello, Dolly, it's so nice to have you back where you belong.

Mr. Leonard, who played in an Old Globe production of King Lear at the start of his career, makes for a solid Shavian. He delivers a well-considered, if boyish, Higgins that combines a professor's penchant for detail with a knack for playing Shaw's nastiness as comedy. He's paired with Ms. Perry, who makes for a very correct but somewhat subdued Eliza Doolittle. Were the two to exhibit more chemistry with each other the production might have gone from top notch to memorable.

Pygmalion may well be Shaw's best play. It ticks along nicely, mostly free of the pontificating from the playwright that drags out many of his other works, and clocks in at an enjoyable five acts in two hours.

What a splendid way to ring in 2013! Performances continue through February 17.

The Old Globe presents Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw.

Performances run through February 17 at the Old Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, in San Diego's Balboa Park. Tickets start at $29 and may be purchased by calling (619) 23-GLOBE [234-5623] or by visiting http://www.theoldglobe.org.

Directed by Nicholas Martin, with Alexander Dodge (Scenic Design), Robert Morgan (Costume Design), Philip S. Rosenberg (Lighting Design), Drew Levy (Sound Design), Mark Bennett (Original Music), Jan Gist (Voice and Dialect Coach), Caparelliotis Casting (Casting) and Annette Yť (Stage Manager).

The cast includes Erin Elizabeth Adams (Bystander), Maggie Carney (Mrs. Eynsford Hill), Kandis Chappell (Mrs. Higgins), Jeremy Fisher (Bystander), Adam Gerber (Bystander, Taxi Man), Allison Layman (Bystander, Parlor Maid), Robert Sean Leonard (Professor Henry Higgins), Danielle O'Farrell (Clara), Charlotte Parry (Eliza Doolittle), Robbie Simpson (Freddy Eynsford Hill), Don Sparks (Mr. Doolittle), Deborah Taylor (Mrs. Pearce) and Paxton Whitehead (Colonel Pickering).


Photo credit: Henry DiRocco

See the current season schedule for the San Diego area.

- Bill Eadie



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