nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
March 6, 2010
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more suitable cast than the one assembled for Tony Walton's revival of George Bernard Shaw's Candida at the Irish Repertory Theatre. It is a very lovely, respectful production with some fine acting.
The Reverend James Morrell, a popular Christian Socialist minister and speaker, is awaiting the arrival home of his wife, Candida, a wise, motherly woman. When she does arrive, it is with Eugene Marchbanks, an 18-year-old poet who works for them and has fallen for her. He wants to rescue her from the boring, miserable life he believes she has. Morrell, naturally, becomes sullen when he hears of Eugene's intentions and ultimately, Candida must decide between the two men. There are other characters—Candida's pompous father, Mr. Burgess; Morrell's typist, Miss Garnett (who may or may not harbor feelings for him); and the Reverend Alexander Mill, Morrell's curate—who provide a lot of the show's humor.
It's 112 years old or thereabouts, but still seems relevant today, especially the closing lines, which get a hearty laugh. There are a lot of laughs in Walton's production (for which he also designed the sumptuous set and costumes) but not from the central love triangle.
What's most interesting is how the cast has been directed: the so-called "love triangle" at the center—Ciaran O'Reilly's Morrell, Sam Underwood's Eugene, and Melissa Errico's Candida—have been directed to act as though the consequences to any of their actions are the most serious ones possible. On the other hand, the other players as the "comic characters" (Xanthe Elbrick's Miss Garnett, Josh Grisetti's Mill, and Brian Murray's Mr. Burgess) have been directed to go for as much humor as possible.
Murray and Elbrick steal their scenes; he proves why, yet again, he is one of the major players of the old school theatre world; she proves why she's a worthy up-and-comer. Grisetti is in far too little of the play for an actor of his capability (and kudos to him for choosing to mention that he was in "Neil Simon's ill-fated Broadway Bound.")
O'Reilly is a sensitive, intelligent Morrell and Underwood is nicely conflicted as Eugene. Errico is simply mesmerizing in the title role. You can't take your eyes off of her. This is her second appearance on a New York stage in four months (the first was in the revival of White Christmas), after a far-too-long hiatus. Let's hope this trend continues.
If the production is lacking anything, it's a bit of oomph here and there, mostly in the scenes between Morrell, Eugene, and Candida. In these scenes, an underlying hint of melancholy is prevalent, and it's at the expense of a lot of Shaw's droll humor. But there's enough in this enjoyable production that you can look past it.