Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 22, 2008


Berkshire Theater Festival, Stockbridge
through July 5th
By Eric Johnson & Laura Lezon

Desire! No wonder it’s a favorite topic of playwrights, it is emotional, dramatic, and universal. George Bernard Shaw’s treatment of the subject is most enjoyable indeed, no surprise. Shaw’s amusing yet poignant tale of love, courage, cowardice, jealousy and, yes, desire comes alive at the hands of director Anders Cato and the extremely talented cast.

Morell (Michel Gill) and Gene (Finn Wittrock) achieve a wonderful chemistry as rivals for the affection of the charismatic Candida. Jayne Atkinson’s portrayal of Candida is charming indeed. Her energy and magnetism light up the room, nurturing the desire of her socialist minister husband and the aspiring young poet. Samantha Soule brings a delightfully dutiful yet feisty Prossie to the performance. Soule’s subtlety in letting out hints of the very prim secretary’s not so subtle desires is most entertaining. David Schramm’s Burgess is full of self importance yet, judging by his enigmatic accent, not so far from the struggling working class he exploits for profit. Jeremiah Wiggins contributes a nice dose of naiveté and shyness as the young Reverend Alex.

Olivera Gajic’s costumes, Hugh Landwehr’s set and Dan Kotlowitz’s lighting all served this production very well. The unusual set design, in another production, might have been considered too avant garde for Shaw. In this case however, it fit seamlessly into the production. When first lit at the beginning of the show, the cyc wall appears to be sky above a beautiful tree-lined park, but soon reveals several levels of poor row houses. It is not a scene through a window of the Morell’s house, but the backdrop of the play. A few wonderful period furniture pieces are set on stage in front of this scene. There is a remarkable “scene change” at the beginning of Act III, appropriate symbolism for the beginning of this metamorphic act.

Shaw’s work is well served by this cast and crew. It is a production worth seeing, if that is your desire.