Friday, December 14, 2012

Seaside Comedy

You Never Can Tell
by George Bernard Shaw

"The theatre should be a factory of thought, a prompter of conscience, an elucidator of social conduct, an armory against despair and dullness, and a temple to the Ascent of Man." - George Bernard Shaw

When George Bernard Shaw wrote You Can Never Tell in 1896 he had already written five plays including Mrs. Warren's Profession and Candida.  But partially in response to Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest he wrote another comedy set at a sea-side resort that would appeal to the mainstream while still incorporating some of his convention-challenging ideas.
While the play was not successful in its premiere run on the stage it was collected with three other light works published as Plays Pleasant in 1898.  It has been revived in New York City five times since then most recently in 1986, and at Court Theater in Chicago in 1982.  Fortunately, Remy Bumppo think theatre has brought it back to the Chicago Stage with a production directed by Shawn Douglas.  The comedy concerns the reconciliation of three children with their father after he has been absent for eighteen years.  In addition a young dentist named Valentine falls in love with the oldest of the children, a young woman named Gloria.  Their mother is an uncharacteristically strong woman who supports her family writing treatises on the proper behavior of middle class families entitled "Twentieth Century Treatises".  This is an occupation which she takes very seriously, but her children, especially the two younger ones, certainly do not.  The main action of the play is a series of comic scenes set at a sea-side resort.  These scenes comprise a comedy of errors and confused identities, with a friendly and wise waiter, Walter (most commonly referred to by the characters as "William," because Dolly thinks he resembles Mr Shakespeare), dispensing his wisdom with the titular phrase "You Never Can Tell." 
The performance of the cast was quite good overall with outstanding performances by Dale Benson as Walter and Greg Matthew Anderson as Valentine.  I also found C. Jaye Miller and Cory Kahane as the two younger children, Dolly and Philip, both effervescent and entertaining in their roles.  Both actors were making their Remy Bumppo debut and are recent graduates of University Theatre Schools.  The production of this witty comedy from the pen of George Bernard Shaw is a welcome addition to the long list of successful Remy Bumppo productions.

Above Photo: Dale Benson and Greg Matthew Anderson from the Remy Bumppo production of You Never Can Tell.

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