Monday, June 1, 2009

Writers' Theatre - The Minister's Wife

I closed my vacation with the Writers’ Theatre’s last show of the season, The Minister’s Wife, which is a world premiere musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Candida.

I’ll just let that one sink in for a minute.

Writers’ Theatre has done more than one “world premiere” and I generally enjoy them. It was directed by Michael Halberstam (my one true love) who has directed Candida in the past. In fact, if I understood the story from the playbill, Michael lit the fuse that launched the project in the first place.

I don’t always agree with his choices. And seriously, I didn’t even hear the second half of the first song because my eyeballs had rolled all the way to the back of my head and I was trying to shake them back into focus. But I warmed up to it.

Here is the summary from the website:

Reverend James Morell and his wife, Candida, are happily married—at least so they think. But when Eugene Marchbanks, a romantic young poet aims to rescue Candida from her domestic routine, everyone’s world is turned upside down. This world premiere musical is adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s Candida by Austin Pendleton with lyrics by Jan Tranen and music by Josh Schmidt, the highly acclaimed and award-winning composer of Adding Machine. Sharp, witty and tender, A Minister’s Wife explores the fires burning beneath the surface of an ordinary marriage and discovers a secret in the heart.

First, someone please help me with this: When I was in high school, I was taught a term for a particular literary device and I can’t remember it:

When a character is much discussed but little spoken to, when what she does means less than what she represents – it is called something. In class, we were discussing the chick in Cyrano de Bergerac. That is how Candida seems in the beginning of the story. I was all braced for just exactly how much I was going to hate this character when she finally made an appearance.

But as the play progresses and we get to know her, Candida doesn’t suck. I rather liked her. I fancy that I even understood her.

[That sound you heard was my mother fainting dead away.]

The men were the big fools. The climax of the play involves Candida’s husband and the 18-year old punk asking her to choose between them. I laughed out loud as Candida played along. That might have something to do with the actor playing the kid – he was like a big, demented Hobbit. I am pretty sure he meant to play it that way.

The actors were good all the way around. The musicians, huddled backstage, sounded great to my untrained ear. I’m just not sure this one requires singing.

In any event, here goes Writers’ Theatre again, making me go read a play to find out if I really liked it or I just liked this interpretation.

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