by: Peter Haas
One of the season’s most delightful, sweetest and most literate productions — a collaboration of two of the city’s famed and finest Off Broadway theater groups ― is now on stage on way-west 42nd Street. The play is “You Never Can Tell,” by George Bernard Shaw, presented by the Pearl Theatre Company and the Gingold Theatrical Group, and directed by Gingold’s David Staller.
We’re transported to the turn of the 20th century. A young couple meet, battling against being in love. In the end, of course, they fail and they fall, as Shaw’s other characters provide witty commentary on such topics as love, money, sex, women’s rights and long-lost-and-rediscovered family.
Staging Shaw plays is no easy task; they consist hugely of ideas and responses, expressed in fast-flowing wit. They are great input for the ear; in fact, Staller, through the Gingold Goup, has for many years been presenting readings of Shaw’s plays, with the actors holding their scripts. For The Pearl, he has now directed with smoothly flowing tableaus, underscoring the various relationships, or lack of them, among the characters. The handsome period costumes, simple sets and occasional incidental music add to the impact.
The cast is superb. For the most part, the actors are veterans of The Pearl’s 30 seasons of classic plays by Shaw, Shakespeare and others. Playing the two romantic leads are the young, versatile Sean McNall, as Mr. Valentine, and, a newcomer to Pearl, the lovely, stately Amelia Pedlow, as Gloria. Robin Leslie Brown, a founding member of Pearl’s Resident Acting Company, fills the stage with her colorful interpretation of Gloria’s mother, Mrs. Clandon, while Pearl veteran character actors Bradford Cover, Dan Daily and Dominic Cuskern fill important slots in the plot. Rounding out the cast are Ben Charles and Emma Wisniewski as Mrs. Clandon’s twin younger children, and Zachary Spicer as an attorney who unties the tangles. All deliver Shaw’s lines with a bright naturalness, as if the ideas had just occurred to them.
The production’s handsome printed program, The Insider, provides added ingredients for thought: articles by Pearl’s dramaturg and interim Artistic Director, Kate Farrington; notes on Shaw and the play from Staller, and, of course, thumbnails of the acting and production personnel.
In all, a top-quality evening Off-Off Broadway – www.pearltheatre.org 212 563-9261