On a beautifully designed Victorian set, rich with details and carpets, by Tony Walton – who has also directed this new production of Candida by George Bernard Shaw – Brian Murray as Mister Burgess – Candida’s irascible and delightful scoundrel of a father who slowly realizes everyone else is “mad” – just about pulls the rugs out from under everyone on stage at the intimate Irish Rep with his masterful and understated comic performance which brings to vibrant life this otherwise staid relic of a play.
But I suppose if G B Shaw had not written this odd love triangle of a play he might not have written Pygmalion and then we would never have had My Fair Lady. So it’s a good thing that he got it out of his system early on.
The production is just fine. It’s just that the play itself leaves much to be desired. The Rev. James Morrell (a too uncharismatic Ciaran O’Reilly) is happily married and deeply in love with Candida (the beautiful Melissa Errico) who has been away on vacation for three weeks. She brings home a souvenir. Eugene Marchbanks (Sam Underwood), a shy eighteen year old poet who is also deeply in love with her, wanting to “rescue her” from her dull life. The battle of who gets Candida ensues with a lot of talk that could lull you to sleep if not for Brian Murray and his excellent supporting players: Josh Grisetti (an excellently precise Rev. Alexander Mill – Morell’s curate) and Xanthe Elbrick (a totally efficient and somewhat tipsy Miss Proserpine Garnett (Morell’s typist and I think her typewriter is lacking a ribbon).
Unfortunately there is little “love chemistry” between the three main players. Not for a minute do you believe that this Candida could ever have fallen in love and married this particular Reverend who supposedly has the world enthralled with his sermons. I think not. Nor is there much of anything coming from the gangly, nervous and noble young Marchbanks who seems almost robotic in his musical comedy delivery.
The ravishing Ms. Errico must choose between them. You might be surprised with her decision but then again you most probably already know with the many many production of this Shavian comedy produced over the years.
What might have spiced things up quite a bit would be to have Bruce Willis, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher acting out this imagined love triangle.
www.irishrep.org Photo: Carol Rosegg