Story: Bishop Alfred Bridgenorth and his wife, Alice, are preparing for the marriage of still another of their many daughters, this time the nuptials of young Edith. This morning, their Chelsea home is overflowing with guests, including the bishop’s military bachelor brother Boxer and Alice’s friend, Lesbia Grantham.
There’s also another brother, Reginald, and his much younger wife, Leo, along with a greengrocer and part-time cleric, William Collins. Edith’s betrothed, Cecil Sykes, pops by along with his best man, a reprobate named St. John Hotchkiss, who is the object of Leo’s affection, even though she also loves Reggie.
The place is congested, not only with people but with conflicting views about marriage and divorce, including even bigamy, and the role a woman should play in such unions. Boxer is frustrated that Lesbia has turned down his marriage proposals seven or eight times, Leo wants both Reggie and St. John and Edith isn’t at all sure that she should be settling down with Cecil or anyone else. All of this is discomfiting to the bishop and his staid wife, but what’s an early 20th century Anglican minister to do?
Highlights: Act Inc.’s credo is “When you’re looking forward to looking back,” and it deliberately seeks out venerable, old-fashioned plays to mount in its two-work repertory season each summer. This year, the company is staging revivals of shows it’s done in earlier seasons, including Getting Married, which it first performed in 1982. Charley’s Aunt, done originally by Act Inc. in 1995, is the other show being performed in repertory during June.
Other Info: Getting Married is a comedy written in 1908 by George Bernard Shaw. Considering the source, it is witty but sermonizing, satirical but overdone, incisive but pedantic. It’s vintage Shaw but not the best Shaw.
Act Inc.’s current production, directed by Anita Lippman, moves at a glacierly pace throughout. Sure, it’s very well acted and it’s lovingly crafted. It’s also difficult to hear sometimes because of the unnecessary staging in the round and precise to the point of being precious. In short, it’s more likely to be embraced by Shavian aficionados than someone out to view something completely different.
There’s no apparent reason for the in-the-round staging, which is more irritating than inspired, at least as evidenced by watching it from two different sides for each of its two prolonged acts. Pacing by Lippman seems overly deliberate as well, as if the players are auditioning for placement in a curio shop.
Even so, there are some delightful performances by Lippman’s sure and steady cast. Garrett Bergfeld as General Boxer Bridgenorth stammers indignantly at anything he considers to be a breach of social etiquette, not to mention his ongoing frustration with Lesbia’s refusal to marry him. He cannot understand why a woman would prefer to remain single given any other possible option.
Liz Hopefl conveys Lesbia’s irregular independence most logically, showing Lesbia’s eternal hope for true romance even at society’s consternation. Colleen Backer is amusing as the flirtatious Leo, who can’t comprehend why she’s not allowed to love the older Reggie as her husband while also passing time romantically with the impudent St. John.
David Gibbs has fun as the ne’er-do-well Reggie, who enjoys stirring it up with his conservative brother Boxer, while Chuck Brinkley is loads of fun as the conniving and opportunistic St. John, more a gadfly than a gentleman.
Mark Abels and Eleanor Mullin are appropriately buttoned-down as the archetypal middle-age couple, particularly as he is the local minister, while Bob Harvey regales everyone as a greengrocer who dispenses his own views of love and marriage based on his long-suffering bouts with his own spouse.
Rachel Wylder displays a fiery passion as the strong-willed Edith and Danny Grumich plays well opposite her as the befuddled Cecil. There’s also amusing work by Joe O’Connor as an underling cleric, Suzanne Greenwald as a mysterious clairvoyant and Leif Johnson as a dutiful beadle.
The set design features some comfy chairs, love seats and divans that are all the more inviting because of the production’s languid movement. Michael Sullivan provides the lighting, Lisa Haselhorst the resplendent era-appropriate costumes and Lori Renna the stifling wig. Liz Hopefl adds the delicate knickknack props and Zoe Sullivan adds a stirring classical sound design that is often more dynamic than the presentation on stage.
Act, Inc.’s rendition of Getting Married features some amusing performances and the often witty banter exchanged between Shavian characters. If only it could add some much-needed zip to the proceedings.
Play: Getting Married
Company: Act, Inc.
Venue: Fontbonne Black Box Theatre, Wydown at Big Bend
Dates: June 21, 22, 23
Tickets: $20; contact 725-9108 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Rating: A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photo courtesy of Act, Inc.