Remy Bumppo presents YOU NEVER CAN TELL. It’s circa 1895. The Clandons are on holiday at a seaside resort. Mrs. Clandon, a single parent, has raised her daughter Gloria and the twins, Dolly and Philip, to be independent, broad thinkers. When Dolly gets a tooth pulled, her dentist, Valentine, dislodges plenty of stuff to chew on. Dolly and Philip become obsessed with their father’s identity. Valentine becomes obsessed with Gloria. Mr. Crampton becomes obsessed with his past shortcomings. YOU NEVER CAN TELL is a spin-off on the importance of being earnest.
Playwright George Bernard Shaw penned witty tales of social convention shake-ups. In this play, he jabs at traditional family values and economic class protocols. Back in the day, Shaw must have shocked his audience with thought-provoking challenges. In this play, he questions the necessity of a two parent family and the underlying notion of marrying for money. Shaw even makes a servant the voice of wisdom. Although the content no longer is jolting, the dialogue is still a reeling wordplay. The 2012 audience continues to be entertained as the characters grapple with their own 1890‘s identities.
Director Shawn Douglass paces this dialogue-heavy play for heightened comedy. The intellectual farce has great chunks of droll and dry delivery. Elaine Rivkin (Mrs. Clandon) and Eliza Stoughton (Gloria) play “modern” women with a non-emotional sensibility. It’s their even-keeled deliveries that showcase others, in particular the twins, to sparkle. The dynamic duo of C. Jaye Miller (Dolly) and Alex Weisman (Philip) is the reason to see this show. An impulsive and daft Miller and the affected and flippant Weisman make a hilarious pairing. Their natural and spirited exchanges is the emotional razzle dazzle in this cerebral tickler. During their absence on stage, the honest but cad-like Greg Matthew Anderson (Valentine) and deadpan Dale Benson (waiter) keep the humor rolling. When Miller and Weisman re-appear, the audience again is transfixed by their presence.
I’m a huge fan of George Bernard Shaw and his timeless social commentaries. Shaw is a master of dialogue and human revelation. Shaw wrote YOU NEVER CAN TELL after Oscar Wilde wrote his blockbuster THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. Shaw wanted to premiere a similar comedy but with stronger social messaging. In comparison over decades, Wilde’s play is much more popular because it’s much more funny. Shaw's spin-off goes more earnest for less humor. Still, Remy Bumppo’s production has moments of pure solid gold comedy. And those moments are primarily brought to us by the wilde-ly talented team of Miller and Weisman. So, I guess YOU NEVER CAN TELL.
Running Time: Two hours and thirty minutes includes an intermission
At Greenhouse Theatre, 2257 N. Lincoln
Written by George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Shawn Douglass
Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 2:30pm
Thru January 6th
Buy Tickets at www.remybumppo.org
Production photos by Johnny Knight