BWW Review: Mad Cow's PYGMALION an Absolute Treat
The business side of Mad Cow Theater may be going through a rough patch, but you'd never know it by their recent production of Pygmalion, the beloved tale by George Bernard Shaw. On the Sunday afternoon that I attended the show, the theater was almost full and both the actors and the audience seemed to be having a lovely time (and rightly so as the show was fabulous!).
Mad Cow's take on PYGMALION is both ambitious and absolutely delightful. Unlike other productions of the play, Mad Cow decided to use Shaw's original, unedited language from when the play was produced in 1913. Over the years, Shaw's interpretation has been changed and altered to reflect more romantic tones in the story - this includes the most well-known take on the play, the film "My Fair Lady" featuring Audrey Hepburn - so it was refreshing and exciting to witness Shaw's play the way it was meant to be seen.
Set in London in the early twentieth century, this poignant look on the class system, gender sterotypes, middle class morality and the English language is home to two of the most well known and beloved characters to both theater and movie-goers alike: Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle. Henry Higgins is played by the vivacious and witty Karl Lengel. A perfect natural at his part, Lengel never once lost the tempo or flair that is required when playing such a "bigger than life" character such as Higgins. By the end of the show, I wanted to both hug and slap Higgins, as he was both confoundly condescending and adorably confused in trying to tell Eliza his affections for her (even if she doesn't reciprocate those feelings). The beauty of Lengel's interpretation of Higgins is in the way he plays this nuance - through his changing expressions and harsh honesty the audience sees that Higgins is confident in his objectivism and truly believes that people of a lower social status are not capable of understanding the upper class way of life. It takes a truly gifted actor to make an audience feel and understand why their character is being so vile, and Lengel does just that. Higgins isn't afraid to be who is, and perhaps that's why we love and hate him so.
The "gutter rat" turned Lady, Eliza Doolittle, was played splendidly by Piper Patterson - a native of New York City. For starters, making the gutteral, low, Cockney accent sound convincing and understandable is a talent in and of itself, and Patterson blew me away with her ability to sound like she was from the streets of London in a way that wasn't jarring on the ears (for reference, see Dick Van Dyke's take on a Cockney accent... he is most definitely one of the greats but there are a great many English people who still cringe at his horrible Cockney accent!). When she does change into a gentile lady, her accent transformation was incredible and I loved it because she was able to change it completely while still hearkening back to the Cockney accent and language from time to time that was the "real" Eliza. All Eliza wants in the world is respect and kindness, and through Patterson's raw emotion on stage the audience roots for her. Patterson's ability to be reserved and "well-behaved" one minute and then a strong, powerful, independent women the next was absolutely outstanding.
While the play takes place in a time of horse drawn carriages and high society garden parties, there are many lessons to be learned about today's society and each of our places in it. I for one, make unnecessary assumptions of people in my daily life, and this show had me leaving the theater reevaluating myself and my morals.
Don't miss PYGMALION at Mad Cow Theatre running now until December 18. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here or by calling the box office at 407-297-8788 ext. 1.
By George! Did you enjoy PYGMALION as much as I did? Let me know! Don't forget to follow BWW Orlando on Facebook and Twitter by clicking below. You can also connect with me about this show and all things theatre by following me on Twitter @libbychamps.