Performing Arts
© Mike Keenan

Shaw's Getting Married: "Will somebody tell me how the world is to get on if nobody is to get married?"

Peter Krantz
Shaw's Getting Married - Peter Krantz

What's love got to do got to do with it?
What's love but a sweet old fashioned notion?
What's love got to do got to do with it?
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?
                            (Chorus: Tina Turner's 'What's love got to do with it?')

Christine Colosimo According to playwright, social critic and consistent curmudgeon, George Bernard Shaw, love is not really the main issue. In Getting Married, director, Joseph Ziegler, aptly employs a powerful and talented ensemble to arrive at the real problem, the law of the land which dictates that a husband be responsible for his wife's potential libel and that a divorce be accomplished through nasty play acting that involves simulation of a brutish attack.

At the Royal George Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake, we quickly discover that wedding bells do not necessarily David Schurmann announce happiness or provide bliss, but rather a sudden confrontation with legalistic imponderables weighing heavily upon those gathered inside the kitchen of the Bishop of Chelsea's (David Schurmann) residence on the very morning of his youngest daughter Edith's (Krista Colosimo) wedding.

General Bridgenorth (Peter Krantz), the bishop's brother, representing the military establishment, fitted in a dazzling red uniform adorned with many medals, is to give the bride away. However, weddings tend morosely to remind him of his unrequited love for Lesbia (Fiona Byrne), the willful sister of the Bishop's wife who carries out her role as best it allows. Yes, a great name for Lesbia who desires children but not a husband, and is willing to suffer "honourably" in the process.

The room fills with bizarre guests for Shaw to caricature and exploit. Reginald (Peter Millard), another Bridgenorth brother and reputed scoundrel, beat up his wife, Leo (Nicola Correia-Damude), in front of the gardener, a witness and then ran away with a "woman of the street" to Brighton. We discover later that he was actually a gentleman, trying to provide silly grounds for divorce so his daffy Leo could marry young St. John Hotchkiss (Martin Happer), a fearless snob with "a face like a mushroom."

On the morning of the wedding, both betrothed, Edith and Cecil (Gray Powell) receive pamphlets titled "Do You Know What You Are Doing by One Who Has Done It," describing Draconian liabilities under Edwardian marriage laws. They immediately decide that matrimony is for the birds but enlist cast members to formulate the first pre-nuptial contract prior to movie stars and Donald Trump - which sounds simple but cannot please one and all.

Fiona Byrne   Gray Powell   Laurie Paton   Nicola Correia   Peter Millard

Shaw stands magisterially upon his soap box, and social farce ensues. Characters argue for polygamy, polyandry and abolishing marriage altogether. Father Soames (Norman Browning) is asked to draw up the legal contract, and he accomplishes more with a few one-liners and hilarious body language than most others accomplish with larger parts. Shaw meanly awards the best roles to the males.

The greengrocer/alderman, William Collins, is played to perfection by Michael Ball, and "Boxer," the aforementioned Peter Krantz gets mileage out of his militarily-engendered rants while Lesbia disdains both his smoking and repeated tearful marriage proposals. Schurmann's Bishop proves to be the understated and most sensible of all characters, insisting on "giving the Devil his due," looking at all sides of the argument. His wife (Sharry Flett) is unfortunately reduced primarily to smiles and knitting thanks to G.B.S.

As usual, Shaw overplays his hand as this satire could easily end at the conclusion of the first act, and we would all be happy and amused, but we are subjected to boring didactics for another hour with Mrs. George Collins, the coal merchant's wife, the Mayoress, the greengrocer's sister-in-law and the author of a series of anonymous love letters to the bishop (Laurie Paton) who represents an unremarkable universal femme fatale archetype and undergoes a tedious séance which would be better served by simply belting out the lyrics to Helen Reddy's I Am Woman. Of course, the youngsters marry thanks primarily to the holy institution of insurance, something that they will probably experience later again when they have children.

One of the treats at Shaw involves the program with its interesting research and history. We learn that Shaw's sister, Lucy, divorced with her brother's assistance but that Shaw himself remained married to Charlotte Payne-Townsend for 45 years despite reports of his philandering and a relationship devoid of sex.

This is the fourth production of Getting Married at the Shaw Festival - the last in 1999, directed by Jim Mezon. Designed by Sue Lepage, the set, a minimalist Norman kitchen in the palace of the Bishop, serves as an appropriate place for social troubles that brew in subversive corridors of church and state power.

Getting Married by G. B. Shaw; directed by Joseph Ziegler; designer, Sue LePage; lighting designer, Louise Guinand; Cast: Peter Krantz, Fiona Byrne, Laurie Paton, Martin Happer, and David Schurmann with Michael Ball, Norman Browning, Nicola Correia-Damude, Sharry Flett, and Peter Millard. Shaw Festival, Royal George Theatre: Directed by Joseph Ziegler, Written by: George Bernard Shaw. Performances from April 11 to November 1, 2008 Box Office: 1 (800) 511-SHAW (7429) Shaw Festival, Royal George Theatre, 85 Queen Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0

Joseph Ziegler
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