By: Sandi Durell
Count on George Bernard Shaw’s wit and the perfection of comic timing to delight in this farcical first New York revival, after 15 years, commemorating the Pearl Theatre Company’s 30th Anniversary Season.
The play wrestles with the boundaries of societal restraints on women at the turn of the 20th Century, their flight to autonomy and a sense of freedom from the restrictions of marriage and, of course, it’s also a tale of love.
Mrs. Clandon (judiciously enacted by Robin Leslie Brown), a feminist writer, returns to England from Madeira where she raised her three children, now in tow, having left her blustery boor of a husband Fergus Crampton (Bradford Cover) many years prior. They are now ensconced in a lavish and lush looking seaside hotel (scenic set design Harry Feiner).
Mrs. Clandon has taught her children well – eldest daughter Gloria (Amelia Pedlow) primly determined to follow in mother’s footsteps and unprepared for the jolt of passionate feeling when she meets the penniless jaunty dentist Mr. Valentine (Sean McNall), trying to survive on his 5 shilling plan (same price for whatever the procedure happens to be). Valentine personifies the games men play to conquer and “circumvent the 20th century woman,” even if, in truth, he has fallen madly in love with Gloria upon first sight, eventually calling her a “feminine prig.”
And there are the twins, much too intelligent for their young ages, who spout off knowing witticisms at rapid fire to all in their path. Young Philip (Ben Charles) and Dolly (Emma Wisniewski) are bubbly-bouncy and light-hearted.
But the voice of reason, wisdom and truth belongs to the erudite waiter, Walter Boon (Dan Daily), who is all-knowing. He is a standout as performances go – “Yes sir!”
Lo and behold Mr. Crampton, coincidentally, also happens to be landlord to tooth pulling Valentine! So when Fergus finally does meet his off spring, orchestrated by solicitor Finch McComas (Dominic Cuskern), he firmly decides he wants to have the twins come live with him to undo the free life style in which they’ve been raised. Not so fast!
Suffice it to say that love blooms and lessons are learned when Walter Bohun (Zachary Spicer – he’s the Sr. Walter’s son and now a mucky muck barrister in English government) is called upon to mediate family matters. His specialty: “being right when other people are wrong.”
Shaw wrote this comedy in response to Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” portraying the many similarities – strong women, servants who think on higher plains, love, sex, political – social commentaries that poke fun at traditional mores.
The exquisite period costumes are by Barbara Bell, while Stephen Petrilli’s lighting places all the right effects. There are creative musical (M.L. Dogg, sound) and dance interludes by the twins as scenes change.
You Never Can Tell is a co-production with Gingold Theatrical Group, directed by the persuasive, humor-endowed David Staller who extracts all possible from his admirably talented cast. He has become the “go to” guy as he is the first person to have directed all of Shaw’s plays.
You’ll spend 2 ½ hours of pure pleasure at “You Never Can Tell.” www.pearltheatre.org 212 563-9261.
This is the first in a monthly series of other Shaw related events at the Pearl Theatre.
*Photos: Al Foote III