|CalShakes photo by Kevin Berne|
Anyway, right back in the swing of it tonight with a trip out to CalShakes to see their production of George Bernard Shaw's "You Never Can Tell." I knew almost nothing about this play going in, which is often fun. I specifically went to see my friend Michael Torres (in the impressive top hat, above), but I do generally enjoy the productions at CalShakes, and the atmosphere at the Bruns Amphitheater can't be beat on a summer evening.
The PlayI've been a fan of Shaw's work ever since reading "Major Barbara" in high school (though I had not seen it staged until ACT did it a couple of years ago!). This play isn't particularly deep, though it is, as Shaw classified it, "pleasant." It's amusing and light, though I have to say the feminism of its 1896 setting seems a bit dated in the Bay Area.
On the plus side, director Lisa Peterson has set the play in a California coastal resort that pleasantly reminds me of Santa Cruz, and the open amphitheater suits the beach setting well. I tend to find plays of this period set in Victorian parlors kind of claustrophobic, and this setting really opened up the environment and let the characters, rather than their setting, carry the play.
Perhaps because I grew up immersed in Greater Berkeley, surrounded by ardent feminists (indeed, my grandmother who was born right around the time this play was written would have felt right at home with the Clandon clan), that aspect of the play doesn't really resonate. It feels to me much more about the clash of parenting styles between the estranged parents. Still interesting, but probably not with the layers of social complexity it would have had a hundred or more years ago. Still, fun language, funny lines--hey, it's Shaw!
The ProductionI thought the play was very well presented. The set is decorated enough to give you the period feel, and the costumes are excellent. But the props and walls and such are sparse enough to suggest, rather than present, the setting. As a result, you know where this is without it being an imposition, and you can focus on the characters and what they are doing. Plus, there is lots of physical space for them to move around in, and they take advantage of it very well.
Khalia Davis and Lance Gardner are quite delightful as the younger Clandon children. Bay Area stalwarts Anthony Fusco and Danny Scheie are exactly who you expect them to be. And Michael Torres is quite unlike the real person I know, which means he must be a good actor!
Although I felt all the roles were well played, I have to admit there were a couple of bits and relationships that didn't quite work for me, such as Scheie with Liam Vincent's Bohun. Individually, they were compelling, but I didn't feel the chemistry that I thought should have underlain their relationship.
But this is a pleasant play, not one to think about too deeply. I laughed, I chuckled, I held hands with my wife on a beautiful summer evening. What's not to like?