By George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Tadeusz Bradecki
Performed by Norman Browning, Krista Colosimo, Graeme Somerville, Nigel Shawn Williams, Claire Jullien, Wade Bogert-O’Brien
Royal George Theatre, Shaw Festival, Niagara on the Lake
April 7 to October 30, 2011
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
Lacking Shavian Wit
Only a true Shavian aficionado will appreciate Candida, currently playing at the Royal George Theatre in Niagara on the Lake. George Bernard Shaw’s play about a love triangle is supposed to be a comedy, but the humour is muted and in some places this play is lacking in Shavian wit.
Candida (Claire Jullien) is a beautiful woman, married to a popular clergyman, Reverend James Morell (Nigel Shawn Williams). He is in demand as a speaker and supports Socialist Christian causes. He has a typist, Prossy, (Krista Colosimo) who is secretly in love with him. She tires of hearing him constantly praise his beloved Candida (pronounced CAN-de-da with the accent on the first syllable: Her father calls her Candy). Morell also has a young cleric, Lexy Mill, (Graeme Somerville) as an assistant, who like Prossy, greatly admires Morell. They are visited by Candida’s father, Mr. Burgess, (Norman Browning) with whom the Morells have had a falling out. Burgess is a capitalist and unscrupulous businessman who doesn’t agree with their socialist views.
Candida brings home a young poet, Eugene Marchbanks, (Wade Bogert-O’Brien) and invites him to stay as their houseguest, wanting to help further his career. Marchbanks falls in love with the beautiful and kind Candida. He doesn’t understand why she should live the difficult life of a preacher’s wife. In the end, Candida has to choose between her husband and the poet.
Nigel Shawn Williams has the preacher’s role down pat. Slightly arrogant, yet vulnerable, he demonstrates the difficult clergyman’s journey, being godly yet human at the same time. Clare Jullien is charming as the lovely Candida. Wade Bogart-O’Brien plays the young poet as twitchy and agitated, coming across as very immature. One fails to see why Candida would want him as a guest, let alone romantically interested in him.
The play is wordy, with a lot of slow dialogue, which may explain Marchbanks’ movement – perhaps it is an attempt to create some action.
In any case, only a true loyal fan of G. B. Shaw would enjoy Candida. For the rest of us, there are some redeeming features in this production, but not enough to recommend this as a way to spend a summer’s evening. If I were still a young English student studying Shaw, I’m sure I would appreciate it. But today, for the price of a ticket, I prefer more laughter and action. And it appears, many agree with me. The sidewalks in Niagara on the Lake were jammed with people the day we were there. There was no parking within several blocks of the theatre. But yet, the Royal George was near empty. Down the street, at a lively production of My Fair Lady, the Festival Theatre was full to capacity. Sorry, G.B.
Candida continues at the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-On-The-Lake, until October 30. For tickets, call the box office at 1-800-511-7429 or check www.shawfest.com