A PLEASANT AND HAPPY COMEDY
George Bernard Shaw’s You Never Can Tell is an old British comedy full of British people doing British things: agitating one another, denying their true feelings until defining moments, and stirring up good ol’mischief.
And just wait until you see how director Jim Mezon drapes this latest mounting!
The story, once set in an English seaside town, is a vividly colorful period piece where the accents are as much a part of the scenery as the flashy sets are high stylin’ costumes are best compared to something out of a wild dream.
Like most comedies at the turn of the 20th century, it’s a tale of courtship. A not-so-successful dentist named Valentine (Gray Powell) is extended a lunch invitation by uber-anxious siblings Dolly (Jennifer Dzialoszynski) and Philip (Stephen Jackman-Torkoff). The brother and sister are rarely in their place and do other unspeakably un-British things.
Valentine finds them amusing but he fancies their older sister, Gloria (Julia Course). She, however, is a disciple of her mother, Mrs. Clandon (Tara Rosling), who is staunchly opposed to letting “sentimentality” govern one’s behavior. Things get messy when Valentine’s hardenedlandlord, Fergus Crampton (Patrick McManus), who turns out to be Mrs. Clandon’s ex-husband and the children’s long-lost father, also receives an invite to lunch.
The production is gut-busting funny no matter how you look at it and largely due to a stellar ensemble that begins with memorable performances by Jennifer Dzialoszynski and Stephen Jackman-Torkoff. They are a breath of fresh air scoring the play’s best lines and proliferate blithesome curiosity in every scene.
“My knowledge of human nature is that we have a father and you probably know who,” Philip pries of his mother.
Gray Powell is impressively relaxed as the smooth talking “ivory snatcher” and “gum architect”, Valentine. His most golden moment comes in Act II when verbal sparring between Valentine and Gloria hits an apex as let’s out a bold “I love you.”
It’s not until late in the play when control freak solicitor Bohun (Jeff Meadows) arrives do the real giggle begin to spill from the aisle. I’ve never been swept away by Somerville’s previous acting endeavours but in this role he sells the scene with plenary craft.
With more than 25 years stage experience at the Shaw Festival, Jim Mezon proves he is a directorial force with huge potential in the old town. His trenchant approach to theatre is just what the medium needs for revitalization.
Part battle of the sexes, part battle of wills, You Never Can Tell is a pleasant, happy little comedy, heavy on dialogue and speedy in pace that illustrates how love reigns at the end of the day.
Review by Jordan Allystair
YOU NEVER CAN TELL by Bernard Shaw April 26 – October 25, 2015 ROYAL GEORGE THEATRE, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario TICKETS $25.00 – $116.00 www.shawfest.com 800-511-SHAW CAST Donna Belleville, Tess Benger, Ayide Blake, Julia Course, Jennifer Dzialoszynski, Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, Peter Krantz, Peter McManus, Jeff Meadows, Peter Millard, Gray Powell, Edmund Stapleton DIRECTOR Jim Mezon SET Leslie Frankish LIGHTING Kimberly Purtell PROJECTION DESIGN Cameron Davis ORIGINAL MUSIC John Gzowski MOVEMENT Jane Johanson