A Minister's Wife

  • Date:
    May 1, 2011

    Review by Tulis McCall

    Bland but not quite. This production follows the play Candida, by George Bernard Shaw, pretty much to the letter. The one enormous element that they left out is the inclusion of Candida’s father, Mr. Burgess, and in doing so the writers have eliminated a tasty element to this story.

    Rev. James Morrell Marc Kudisch is a Socialist and preaches from his pulpit every day. He believes that no one has a right to share in the rewards of something they had no part in creating: not wealth and not happiness for starters. His wife, Candida, (Kate Fry) is a progressive and independent woman who is aware of how much work it takes to be that way in 1884. Prosperpine Garnett (Liz Baltes) is one secretary in a long line of secretaries who worships at the feet of Reverend Morrell and is enough in love with him to do almost any task he asks. Lexy – Rev. Alexander Mill (Drew Gheling) is Morrell’s curate, and not quite up to the task of walking in his mentor’s footsteps - yet. And Eugene Marchbanks (Bobby Steggert) is a noble lad by birth, but has been taken in by Morrell because he is just a little lost in the world of facts and details.

    The story revolves around Marchbanks’ infatuation with Candida and the earthquake visited upon the household by his certainty. Eugene, though young, is able to shake Morrell to his foundation with his challenges, and all is left in question until Candida makes her decision.

    This is Shaw, of course, the great feminist, so Candida comes off as a fully formed human being. What we miss, because of the elimination of her father, is the context for her formation. Burgess is the buttress against which Morrell’s sense of democracy and Candida’s liberal views can hurl themselves. With him in the picture we see how Morrell and Candid have created their life together, one that is so opposed to Burgess and his single-minded pursuit of money. Without him, there is a great rearrangement of events to satisfy the tale, and the only clash is between Marchbanks and Morrell. While this is interesting, it is without flavor because Morrell’s character is on the flat side, and as played by Marc Kudisch he stays that way. Bobby Steggert is all fireworks and passion but without a larger view of Candida, who is lovely but unknown, it is difficult to see what all the fuss is about.

    In addition, the music never achieves any goal (with the exception of the fine Enchantment) other than to accompany the story. This is an operetta, not a musical.

    At best this is a charming shell of a story that will remind you of Shaw. Beautifully executed (the trio in back of the scrim is a wonderful touch) in nearly every way, but lacking in substance.

    (Tulis McCall)