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BWW Review: Comedy Talks in MISALLIANCE

Emmaline Friedrichs as Hypatia (left) and
Coleman as Lord Summerhays.
Photo credit: J Miner Photography

George Bernard Shaw must have been a talker.

A man of many talents, Shaw's plays are known for driving home his opinions on the world around him and doing so at length -- hence why he's said to have perfected the concept of "discussion" plays.

Strollers Theatre took the challenging playwright to task with their latest production of Misalliance - a 2 ½ hour comedy of manners with so much talking it's no wonder the characters didn't end up blue in the face.

Set in a simple, yet elegant, garden (the work of set designer Katherine K. White and properties designer Jens Hanson) at the home of underwear tycoon John Tarleton (Carl Cawthorne), many discussions are being had about Tarleton's secretly brazen daughter Hypatia (Emmaline Friederichs) and her betrothed Bentley "Bunny" Summerhays (Sean Langenecker).

But Hypatia, who has -- unbeknownst to her father -- also been propositioned for marriage by Bentley's father Lord Summerhays (Coleman), is far more interested in living her life rather than living as a wife or spending her time talking about it.

She would prefer to be "an active verb", which she explains simply: "I want to be; I want to do; and I'm game to suffer if it costs that."

However, the whole troupe is in for an exhilarating surprise when an airplane crashes nearby and they're introduced to the spirited pilot Joey Percival (Kyle Baldauf) and his Polish, acrobatic co-pilot Lina (Heather Jane Farr). Hypatia is immediately smitten by Joey and everyone else is fascinated by Lina.

In order for a talky play to his its mark, it needs a cast of strong and articulate performers. Luckily, director Sam D. White was able to saturate the stage with such actors.

Coleman and Cawthorne stand out in particular -- and not just for their spectacular facial hair -- because they both so eloquently embody their archetypes. Coleman, the slightly more down-to-earth of the two fathers, lets himself feel a wealth of emotions and visibly softens his shoulders when he is dismayed. While Cawthorne's no nonsense personality is as crisp as the book pages in his multitude of free libraries.

Langenecker too, as the sniveling and childish Bentley, throws a terrible twos quality tantrum befitting his spoiled nature.

Although there are points when the text outpaces the accents (making it difficult to understand the dialogue) and Lina's accent is decidedly Russian and not Polish - this mile a minute comedy is delightful.

Over the course of the show, Shaw crams his opinions about love, marriage, family dynamics, socialism, and capitalism into the dialogue.

The title, Misalliance, more obviously refers to the poorly matched Bentley and Hypatia, but it applies to virtually every relationship that takes place on stage. The characters all struggle to find companionship of any kind in the changing world (Misalliance debuted in 1910) as opinions and lifestyles changed quickly around them.

What this Stollers production is ultimately able to do with Shaw's talkative farce is keep the conversation lively, the aesthetic pleasing, and the company as eccentric as a family reunion.

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From This Author Amanda Finn

Amanda lives in Madison, WI and joined BWW in the spring of 2014. She has relished every moment spent in a theatre since then. She (read more...)