Misalliance at Seattle Repertory Theatre
A practically perfect alliance of play and production occurs in Seattle Repertory Theatre's Misalliance. A later period play from George Bernard Shaw, the playwright who gave the theatre Pygmalion, Candida, Arms and the Man and others, the text at times is almost more Oscar Wilde-like in its witty verbiage and observations on the foolishness of the moneyed, whether they are those who were born to it, or earned it.
The first act is almost all character exposition explaining how the gentrified Tarleton family and merchant-class Summerhays clan are connected. The lovely, sassy and bored Hypatia Tarleton is betrothed to the spoiled, simpering sissy Bentley Summerhays. Bentley's papa, Lord Summerhays, who disdains his son while still harboring affection for him, also admires Hypatia. Hypatia's father has a wandering eye, but the undaunted devotion of his wife, while her rather stolid brother Johnny is waiting for the right girl to come along.
Instead, as act one closes, a pair of aviators arrives, crashing into the Tarleton's house. Act two reveals that there is only one aviator, and his passenger is a gutsy, no-nonsense Polish lady acrobat who has an effect, sexual or otherwise, on nearly every man onstage. Another arrival is a comic intruder who has revenge in mind, with father Tarleton. With the addition of these outsider characters, I found the play reminding me oddly of Kaufman and Hart's You Can't Take it With You, though not to its detriment. In any event, without further synopsizing, all's well that ends well for virtually everyone onstage.
And all is indeed well with Sharon Ott's crisp, sparkling direction, and the expert cast she has assembled. Top honors go to two ladies familiar to Rep audiences. Jennifer Erin Roberts as Hypatia has class and sass, and one can see a bit of the young Katharine Hepburn in her stylish, stylized portrayal. The always stunning Suzanne Bouchard as Lena, the Polish acrobat, is at her very best here, and has the kind of big, bold act two soliloquy that wins actors awards. Veteran Seattle thespian Susan Corzatte shines brightly as the wise, overly understanding Mrs. Tarleton, while Dan Kremer as Lord Summerhays and William Whitehead as Tarleton have the art of playing foolish yet charming old gentlemen down pat.
As prissy piss-ant Bentley, Oliver Wadsworth whines with such comic skill that the audience finds him just as annoying as the characters do. Hans Altweis makes his Joey Percival a ripping and attractive aviator; Eric Ray Anderson sidesteps an overly broad approach, yet finds comic sparkle in his role as the intruder; and in the straightest role in the show, Daniel Travis still manages to charm as Johnny.
The only noticeable misstep of the production is the scenic design by Andrew Jackness, which renders the exterior of the Tarleton's house in a scale that looks more like a child's playhouse than a real one. However, the sight of the post plane-crash house is impressive. There is no finding fault with the elegant costume design by David Murin or the handsome lighting design by Peter Maradudin.
Misalliance runs at Seattle Repertory Theatre, 1st & Mercer at Seattle Center, through Nov. 1. For further information visit the Seattle Rep's website at www.seattlerep.org.