nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
December 12, 2009
After seeing Misalliance, Bernard Shaw's "debate in one sitting," it's easy to understand why the title is seldom uttered in the same breath as Pygmalion or Mrs. Warren's Profession or Major Barbara. Jeff Steitzer's production for the Pearl Theatre Company is an exercise in tedium—more the fault of the play itself than anything else. Characteristic of all Pearl productions, fine acting, pretty designs, and bright lights (exceedingly bright lights, designed by Stephen Petrilli), are still apparent.
This comedy of ideas, a synopsis of which you can find here, features a plot that entirely occurs offstage, leaving the set (the pretty, outdoor Tarleton home designed by Bill Clarke) to showcase a debate on parenthood and childhood, with a little bit of sex thrown in.
As hard as they all try, very little makes it interesting. Steitzer manages to mine a few laughs from the material, most of which stem from physicality. Laughs are earned, no question, but overall, his staging does nothing to stimulate the material.
The cast is quite fine, with Steven Boyer as the fey Bentley and Erika Rolfsrud as the Polish acrobat Lina Szczepanowska standing out. Bradford Cover, beardless for a change as the oldest Tarleton son, doesn't have much of a chance to make his usual impression. The bombastic Dan Daily as Mr. Tarleton, outshines everyone. Lee Stark, beguiling in The Playboy of the Western World, doesn't really know what to do with her character, Hypatia, the Tarleton daughter seeking adventure.
The play ends—strategically—with Tarleton's saying "I suppose there's nothing more to be said." Hypatia responds "Thank goodness." My sentiments exactly.