Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"You Never Can Tell" Is Fun and Well Done

Cleveland Press February 17, 1966

To re-visit George Bernard Shaw, as the Play House permits us to do once a season, is to recall that a stage comedy can evoke laughs with pure wit, that an entertaining work can be written with respect for the language and that a light dramatic work can be used to evoke ideas

"You Never Can Tell" is not the theatrical milestone that other G. B. S. works -- "Saint Joan," or "Pygmalion" or "Major Barbara" for example -- are, but even lesser Shaw is a major play.

This particular work, light and fluffy as it is, remains good enough to make the playwright look like a giant among so many pygmies.

Shaw is once again writing about emancipated women, poking fun at lawyers and doctors, giving sentimental love a kick in the pants and then allowing it to survive with the notion that it isn't so bad after all.

That a Shavian work remains good theater after all these years should surprise no one. What is surprising is the fact that there are players around with respect for high comedy, for the somewhat stylized presentation that prevents the work from losing its charm.

THIS GROUP of actors under the direction of William Woodman never let s the play become farce or permits it to bog down under the weight of its words. For man of genius though he was, Shaw was a wordy one and it takes a nimble presentation to get past them.

"You Never Can Tell" concerns an emancipated women who lived away from England and her husband for 18 years and who returns there with her three children.

They meet a young dentist who is immediately attracted to the elder daughter but since she has been brought up by an enlightened mother she will have none of his sentimental line.

THE DENTIST'S landlord, it develops, is the missing husband and father but since the wife had her reasons for leaving reconciliation plus the course of true love requires four acts to complete.

The most appealing role in the play is that of a waiter who hovers about providing wisdom, a bit of encouragement, serving as a catalyst to the action.

Robert Allman in this role does one of his best jobs. His is the proper mixture of humility and wisdom. His timing is right and his playing has a restrained earnestness about it.

Charles Keating appears as Valentine, the dentist, at first sure of himself, then confused. Keating has one proper romantic air, plays the part with just enough comedy without burlesquing the role.

AS THE TWINS, Dolly and Philip, we have a couple of energetic, young, bouncy bright performers -- Susan Stirling and Peter Bartlett.

The young lady who upsets the self-assured dentist is Margaret Victor who looks as though she could easily upset any man. She is haughty and cool when she has to be.

The rest of the cast is consistently good. There is Edith Owen as the kindly mother a crusty, sometimes excitable Michael Hogan as the family solicitor; an obstinate sounding Robert Snook as the father.

Shakespeare Festival . . .

Arthur Lithgow, who has directed the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival since its beginning three years ago, has been replaced. Lawrence Carra, professor of drama at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, has been appointed artistic director for the 1966 season.

The appointment was made by the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival Executive Committee. The committee explained that Lithgow is too involved with the McCarter Theater at Princeton University and that the McCarter Theater's plans do not include producing Shakespeare.

LAST SEASON an arrangement was worked out in which the Princeton and Lakewood groups shared productions.

Carra for five years was director of the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, directed the resident company of the Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, was producer of the ABC Pulitzer Prize Playhouse and has directed several off-Broadway productions.