Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Lakewood Cast Great in Shaw Play

Cleveland Press August 10, 1967

The Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival played George Bernard Shaw last night. The audience won.

The play is Shaw's "Misalliance," more dialog than plot, more debate than play. But such dialog!

This is wit and sophistication at its best, thoughtful phrases sugar-coated with fun. And between moments of erudition, Shaw tossed off enough one-line gags to keep a comic in business for an entire season.

"Misalliance" pits parents against children, men against women, thinkers against doers. It touches upon women's independence, socialism, capitalism and colonialism. It is talk and more talk of the most wonderful variety, almost unending but capable of holding an audience.

If the play has a fault -- aside from its plotlessness -- it is in the fact that each character is such a convincing talker in his own right that, together, they take the play and run away with it. Forget looking for one idea in "Misalliance;" there are so many and so well set forth.

In terms of production this is the most satisfying of the works put on by the festival this season. The acting is uniformly outstanding with no weak spots. In spite of the play's wordiness, director Lawrence Carra's pacing is excellent and unflagging. Several scenes reach hilarious heights with their skillful blending of farce and comedy.

Jeremiah Sullivan, who has done everything right this season, is at his absolute best as the pedantic, genial and elderly Tarleton. Tarleton is a self-made, middle-class man of wealth -- made it all in Tarleton's Underwear and now spends his time giving money to libraries, reading books and quoting great authors.

SULLIVAN A NIMBLE MERCUTIO in "Romeo and Juliet," is adroitly funny as the absurd old man. Some of his lines make a running gag through the play but they might have been merely repetitious without Sullivan's clever and inspired bits of stage business.

Penelope Reed, as his daughter, Hypatia, has the purposeful attitude of a formidable woman with an independent mind and a sharp wit. In her hands the role is less mysterious than it seems in print, comes across instead in the form of a deliciously bubbling personality in a very lovely woman.

Peter Blaxill is Bentley, the stuffy, spoiled fiance of the young woman. He pouts, screams and has several uproariously funny scenes as he throws himself on the floor in wild tantrums.

Jack Davidson as Joey Percival is the proper, upstanding, double-standard Edwardian English gentleman. Gary De LaVigne is the prototype of every nice, young wealthy man who has been suggesting a game of tennis in plays for generations.

WILLIAM BUSH IS PROPERLY VAGUE as an English lord and Matthew Chait is wild-eyed as the young Socialist.

Susan Willis portrays Lina Szczopanowska (don't look for the full name in the program; the Festival people declined to use it), the mysterious Polish lady who arrives in a plane that crashes into the greenhouse.

(If you don't know the play, that one ought to arouse your curiosity!)

ANYWAY -- BACK TO MISS WILLIS. This wonderful actress who does everything well is her usual superb self in "Misalliance." But aside from voice, accent and gestures she is acting with her eyebrows. Don't ask me how or what. Just believe.

Milton Howarth has created a busy and appropriate set for the show, one filled with potted palms and cane furniture.

The production is near perfect. I would quibble over one, very minor point. With all that "Misalliance" has going for it, one thing it doesn't need is the player piano introductory music.

Playwright, players, director and scene designer have done everything that is necessary to create the proper mood and setting. Why mar it with a slightly corny note?