Actions definitely do not speak louder than words in George Bernard Shaw's plays. Acknowledging that some of his plays were discussions rather than dramas, Shaw originally gave Misalliance the subtitle, ``A Debate in One Sitting.'' This nearly three-hour-long ``debate'' recalls the lament of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, a musical based on Shaw's Pygmalion: ``Words, words, words, I'm so sick of words!'' A character in Misalliance echoes this plaint when she concludes the play with the lines, ``I suppose there's nothing more to be said. Thank goodness!'' All this talking puts a heavy burden on the actors, and the Renegade Theatre Company cast acquitted themselves satisfactorily. The company overall deserves praise for mounting a classy production in such cramped quarters. They were lucky, in fact, that the play had so little action since the stage was only about 15-by-20 feet and got crowded when eight people were on it at once. The company did not skimp on costumes, attiring the actors in a variety of Edwardian fashions, and cleverly used modern patio furniture to capture the look of an English country home. The music played before each act also complemented the period and style nicely.
Misalliance is set in the Surrey home of the Tarleton family, who over the course of one spring day in 1909 are visited by daughter Hypatia's fiance and his father, a daredevil aviator, a headstrong young Polish woman, and an intruder. Everyone has something to say about courtship, marriage, the sexes, and social conventions ... and say it they do in an interminably talky play that showcases what has become known as Shavian wit. Although Misalliance was one of Shaw's flops, its social criticism takes aim at many of the same targets of his better-known works. With its fine production qualities, Renegade's revival may have pleased diehard Shaw fans. It made for a long night of theatre, however, for non-devotees.
Patrick Hillan, Adam Michenner, Barie W. Snider, and Simon Boughey headed a solid cast. In addition to their decent performances, most of the actors were well-suited for their roles physically. For instance, 5-foot-4-inch Bruce A. Katlin played Hypatia's fiance, whose inadequacy as a prospective spouse was often linked to his small stature, while Leslie Sara Carroll, with her mane of long red hair, commanded attention just as her character -- the exotic Lina Szczepanowska -- does with her radical ideas about women's behavior. The weak link in the cast was Elizabeth K. Mahon, whose appearance and demeanor should have been more delicate for Hypatia. (Also featuring Joanna Brown and Sam McPherson. Scenic design, Cathy Wassylenko; costumes, Leslie Sara Carroll, Lucy Keyes, Elizabeth K. Mahon, Sue Ritt; lighting, Michael John Murnin; sound, Ronald Butler.
Copyright 1996 Adrienne Onofri
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