Have you ever gone to one of those weekends at someone’s summer house? You look around and see the same people you see at the club, the hunt, you know … then Something Happens and the entire world is different! Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey has created a beautiful new production of George Bernard Shaw’s “Misalliance” and the timing is as perfect as the ensemble.
The scene opens on the early 1900s version of disaffected twenty-somethings. While there is no tech in sight, there’s still that sense of feigned ennui in the first parries between Johnny Tarleton (Brian Cade), the scion of an undergarment magnate, and the old-money Bentley “Bunny” Summerhays (Matthew Sherbach), his sister’s louche sylph-like fiancé. Bunny is everything that Johnny is not–he’s poetic, and droll, and dancing just on the razor’s edge of foppishness. Johnny is tweedy four-square Englishman with all the self-assurance that youth wear like a mantle–until they see the world. Or the world comes to them.
Bunny’s intended, Hypatia (Katie Fabel), is Lady Mary mixed with a liberal soupçon of Rose, if you’re “Downton Abbey” fans. She’s marrying Bunny because he’s Old Money and Name and she’s considering that Bunny’s the best of the lot that she’s seen. Her mother, Mrs. Tarleton (Erika Rolfsrud) runs her home with great efficiency, taking the foibles of her progeny and husband in stride, and in the maelstrom swirling around her, it’s no mean feat. Despite their David and Goliath differences, Bunny baits Johnny to the point of mayhem and Mrs. Tarleton saves the day. Shaw has a great deal to say and it’s all ringing with the same truth today, more than 100 years later. His words about politics, children, and relations among adult men and women could have been written yesterday on Facebook, so much are they a reminder that it is only times that change and not people.
Lord Summerhays (Jonathan Gillard Daly) feels he has worldliness and advantage in his favor when he tries to woo Hypatia, but when she spurns him so soundly, it’s more than his pride that’s wounded. His psyche gets a major comeuppance. John Tarleton (Ames Adamson) is a huckster with a great tailor and, while he’s aware of the toil and sweat that has made his present success, he’s still slicker than a country gentleman ought to be. When a plane crashes into greenhouse, Tarleton invites the pilot and passenger to dinner–and then the fun really begins! The pilot, Percival (Robbie Simpson), is a school chum of Bunny’s and the other guy isn’t a guy at all–removing the aviator cap and coat, she’s revealed as a woman! She’s the bold and lithe Lina Szczepanowska (Caralyn Kozlowski), part of the famed daredevil acrobatic family, in fact–and the women and the men all pause!
Percival is chased by Hypatia like it’s Sadie Hawkins’ Day and this is upsetting to the dashing young man—at first. Yet his modern ideas, on one hand, and her equally modern and different ideas, on the other, lead to a creative partnership and a very interesting dénouement—and what of Lina?
Lina is a mythical creature unlike anyone the men have ever seen. Recall that this is written while there is still some flavor of Victorian England to country life, and Lina has fallen from the sky like the Winds of Change. She’s wearing trousers (oh my!) and is constantly exercising. She’s one of the girls who’s one of the boys and, other than Percival, she’s got all the other men’s attention. Each one wants her and Daddy Tarleton is the boldest of all! Will Lina tell Mrs. Tarleton? And who IS that Young Man (Matt Kleckner) in the Turkish Bath?! You’ll have to see “Misalliance” to know for sure. This is a brilliant production directed by Stephen Brown-Fried. There are so many bon mots happening so quickly, you’ll be laughing at remarks from moments before even as more mayhem is happening. Mis-Alliance? Then you’d truly miss out!
“Misalliance” is playing through August 30, so get your tickets NOW at www.shakespearenj.org
. This is a perfect gift for the “Downton” fan with the Summer birthday!