Leave it to A Noise Within to bring us another unique theatre-going opportunity to see the rarely produced George Bernard Shaw 1897 comedy “You Never Can Tell.” Certainly one of Shaw’s lighter offerings however it still crackles with social commentary on love and relations between the sexes in the late nineteenth century. Directed by Stephanie Shroyer who has the cast attacking the richly copious verbiage at a crisp pace with razor-sharp precision. The result is a fizzy, effervescent afternoon spent at the English seaside unraveling the story of one fascinating family drama.
Matriarch and progressive-minded author, Mrs. Clandon, has just returned to the English seaside from an 18 year self-imposed exile to the Portuguese island of Madeira having escaped an oppressive marriage and taken her three children with her. Now grown, the mischievous twins, Dolly & Philip, along with older daughter, Gloria are quite keen to find out who their long lost father is and are relentless in asking their mother for answers. While Mrs. Clandon seeks assistance in explaining the situation from family friend and lawyer, Finch, the twins have met a rather cheeky dentist, the aptly named Valentine, who falls in love at first sight with Gloria and whose landlord turns out to be none other than the father they seek! Unbeknownst to Mrs. Clandon, their father, Fergus Crampton, has been invited to lunch with all of them and so begins the saucy, seaside battle of the sexes and all hell breaks loose as secrets are revealed, games are played and confessions are made, all under the watchful eye and pointedly hilarious observations of the wise old waiter, Walter Boon, known as “William”.
If you have yet to discover this dynamic theatre company, then you are in for a treat! The space is gorgeous; not a bad seat in the house, the production values are always top-notch and the acting sublime. Angela Balogh Calin outdoes herself again with sumptuous costumes that evoke the luxury and constraints of the time, especially the divine gowns worn by Mrs. Clandon; fantastic fascinator! The entire design team creates a sunny, seaside resort complete with lapping waves in the distance. Kasey Mahaffy is an absolutely irresistible rake as dentist Valentine who woos the formidably feminist daughter Gloria, played with fortitude and ultimately vulnerability by Jill Renner. Erika Soto and Richy Storrs seem to be having the time of their lives as the irrepressible Dolly and Philip. They simply delight in the scandal of it all and their excitement is contagious. Wesley Mann practically steals every scene he is in as the wise William with his droll observations that are both erudite and hysterical. Making a late in the story entrance is Freddy Douglas as the attorney who makes the absolute most of the language with his crackerjack command of it, withering anyone in his path with his words of wisdom. The entire cast is stellar, from Apollo Dukakis as a stern but sad Mr. Crampton, the always wonderful Jeremy Rabb as Finch, a man anxiously holding on to decorum and they are all led by ANW favorite Deborah Strang who is a bold and captivating Mrs. Clandon.
“You Never Can Tell” runs in repertory with “Romeo & Juliet” and “Six Characters In Search of an Author” at A Noise Within through May 15th. Tickets & info: www.anoisewithin.org (626) 356-3100. Located at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd in Pasadena.