Flirtatious Staging Ensures Satisfaction
The thing about commitment is that it’s so darn hard to maintain when your heart really isn’t in it. And when you’re a self-absorbed estrogen magnet like Leonard (Gord Rand), the sky really is the limit when it comes to romance in the naughty behaviour infused The Philanderer.
Happiness depends only upon himself but and soon he’ll be learning that ‘it’s better to be off with the old woman before it’s on with the new.’
As outrageous as that may sound, the story is said to be inspired on playwright Bernard Shaw’s real life amorous interactions. As such, he relies on Leonard’s comically awkward situation of trying to evade a love-struck Julia (Moya O’Connell) so he can find comfort in the arms of Grace (Marla McLean).
Enter Julia’s liver diseased father, Colonel Craven (Ric Reid) and Grace’s theatre assessor father Joseph Cuthbertson (Michael Ball) for a gathering at The Ibsen Club where members meet profiled expectations and a stage full of silliness unfolds from the story.
It should be noted that Ibsen’s A Doll’s House had raised a few eyebrows in the same day The Philanderer debuted. This time around, Shaw pokes fun at the concept of marriage and femininity to challenge contemporary ‘advanced views’ if there ever were any that truly existed.
Although director Lisa Peterson’s flirtatious staging keeps audiences aroused, the real problem with the play is that you spend the entire first act not empathizing with any of the characters or the situations in which they find themselves. This is the opposite effect that prominently placed works of the Shavian canon has on audiences.
But when the originally written third act surfaces in this Shaw Festival presentation that few people have witnessed there’s a strong sense that journey was worth its hormonal road trip.
If there’s a thin line between broad burlesque and reasoned satire, The Philanderer secures a high level of satisfaction in its storytelling mandate.
Review by Steven Berketo
THE PHILANDERER by Bernard Shaw Jun. 26 – Oct 12, 2014 FESTIVAL THEATRE, Niagara-on-the Lake, TICKETS $24.00 – $113.00 1-800-511-SHAW www.shawfest.com CAST Michael Ball, Guy Bannerman, Kristi Frank, Marla McLean, Jeff Meadows, Moya O’Connell, Gord Rand, Ric Reid, Harveen Sandhu DIRECTOR Lisa Peterson SET AND COSTUMES Sue LePage LIGHTING Kevin Lamotte SOUND DESIGN Mark Bennett