A Selection of One-Act Plays by George Bernard Shaw

The Deptford Players
Midtown International Theatre Festival
Raw Space Studio L
529 W. 42nd. St.
Equity showcase (closes Aug. 20)
Ticket Central, 416 W. 42nd St. 1-8 p.m. (279-4200 or CultureFinder.com)
Review by Julie Halpern

The Deptford Players exploded onto the Off-Off Broadway scene with their acclaimed production of Journey's End. Their current production of Shaw one-acts enhanced their stature as preeminent interpreters of modern classics. Deptford's company members are consummate theatre artists, steeped in theatre and art history and in all areas of production. Their knowledge and attention to detail, ranging from period undergarments to flawless upper-class British accents and mannerisms, resulted in a top-flight production of two seldom seen one-act plays.

How He Lied to Her Husband tweaks the fatuous idle rich and their desire for culture with wicked comic timing, with a bit of physical comedy thrown in. Director Lorree True kept the rapid-fire dialogue and parlor-game antics fresh throughout. Henry, a young poet, has fallen in love with the wealthy Aurora, wife of a successful businessman. Aurora is thrilled with the attentions of the ardent but penurious Henry and the romantic poems he writes to her. Henry wants Aurora to divorce her husband and marry him, but reality takes hold when Aurora realizes that she doesn't want to leave the comfortable life she enjoys. When Aurora's husband Teddy intercepts the poems and questions Henry about them, an intimidated Henry assures him that the poems are harmless and that he has no interest in Aurora. He is shocked at Teddy's reaction: it seems that Teddy enjoys the attentions of other men toward his wife and is offended at Henry's lack of interest.

Jeff Berry was hilarious as Henry, displaying fluency and complete comfort with Shaw's writing. His magnificent speaking voice and physical freedom on stage were a delight. Christopher D. Roberts's florid, blustering Teddy was an exemplary late-Victorian captain of industry. Stephanie Stone was a delicate beauty totally at home with the brittle speech patterns and body language that typified upperclass women of the period.

True's costume designs were luscious, particularly Stone's pink taffeta gown and sumptuous jewels. Lively music by Sir Arthur Sullivan added to the fun.

The Music Cure chronicles the emotional collapse of a fragile aristocrat, Sir Reginald Fitzambey. Convalescing after a disastrous financial venture, Reginald is pushed over the edge by the ministrations of his golf-playing physician, who has overprescribed opium. His hallucinations are intensified by the arrival of the glamorous and haughty concert pianist Strega Thundridge. Reginald is a fine amateur pianist enamored of popular songs of the day such as "Alexander's Ragtime Band," and a cultural clash ensues. When the smoke clears, the weak Reginald realizes that he has fallen in love with the tough, cruel Strega and offers himself in marriage.

Antony Ferguson was a brilliant bundle of energy as the pathetic Reginald. Lorree True's Strega was a living, breathing, John Singer Sargent portrait in her pink gown and black jacket. Prim and elegant one minute and viciously pummeling Reginald the next, True found the perfect balance for her eccentric character. Dudley Stone was a riot as a spats-shod Dr. Feelgood. Jeff Berry's generous, collaborative directing gave his talented cast the run of the stage to display their considerable comic talents. Romantic piano etudes and lighter classics enhanced the period ambience.

Box Score:

Writing: 2

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Set: 1

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2000 Julie Halpern