Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

An Impressive Production of
George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion

California Shakespeare Company

Also see Richard's reviews of Everybody Here Says Hello, Dracula Inquest and Monsieur Chopin

Anthony Fusco, Catherine Castellanos and Irene Lucio
California Shakespeare Company has resurrected Shaw's 1912 morality drama Pygmalion as their third production this summer at the Bruins Amphitheatre in Orinda. Probably in today's world it is better known as My Fair Lady without the music; however, before Lerner and Loewe got their hands on this piece it was Bernard Shaw's most popular play. Also, the Irish dramatist's work is much more radical that the musical.

Pygmalion is a satire and a comedy and it deals with middle class morality, gender and language. It exemplifies Shaw's ideas about social equality and progress. There is a bubbling wit about the play, but it is also deeply affecting. This is a grand production which made me forget about the songs of Lerner and Loewe. The sparkling dialogue was enough to keep me captivated.

Anthony Fusco finds all the humor in Professor Higgins' bullying manner and social gaucheness. He is unmindful of the particulars of social interactions. Fusco plays the role like an overgrown schoolboy. His speech to Eliza in the last scene is superb.

New York actress Irene Lucio is wonderful as Eliza Doolittle. She shows the character as a tough, working-class girl who enters into a pact with Higgins for her own economic advantage. Lucio skillfully captures the arc of Eliza's development. She is really hilarious in the famous tea party scene with Higgins' mother where the whole joke depends on Eliza behaving like a badly functioning mechanical doll.

Special mention should go to James Carpenter as Eliza's father Alfred, a self-interested drunk who manages to beguile with his pub-philosophy ideals about morality being for the leisured rich. Carpenter has a wonderful range, running from genial to ruthless. It's an outstanding performance.

L. Peter Callender is excellent as Colonel Pickering. He shows some of the humanity that Higgins lacks. His upper class British accent is impeccable. Sharon Lockwood gives a first rate performance as the domineering and perceptive mother of Henry Higgins. Catherine Castellanos as the housekeeper Mrs. Pearce is ideal in her role. Nicholas Pelczar gives an exceptional performance as Freddy Eynsford Hill. Julie Eccles is marvelous as Freddy's mother Mrs. Eynsford Hill. Ponder Goddard, Liam Callister, Caitlin Evenson, Charles Lewis III and Catherine Luedtke round out the large cast and all give good performances.

Dialect and text coach Lynn Soffer should be noted for the splendid upper and lower class British accents of the actors. They all are pitch perfect. Costume designer Anna Oliver's outfits are beautiful Victorian attire, while set design by Annie Smart features a detailed period reconstruction in line with this solid, visually rich production. Jonathan Moscone's direction is crisp and clear.

Pygmalion runs through August 24th, 2014, at Bruins Amphitheatre. 100 California Shakespeare Theatre Way, Orinda just off Highway 24 past the Caldecott Tunnel. For tickets call 510-548-9666 between noon and 2pm or visit Coming up next is Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream opening on September 3rd.

Photo: Kevin Berne

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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