Monday, February 8, 2016

George Bernard Shaw's WIDOWERS' HOUSES: Preview by Polly Guerin

Theatergoers on the night of December 9, 1892 at the Royalty Theatre in London were shocked by the commentary in George Bernard Shaw's first play, WIDOWERS' HOUSES. It was not the usual sappy melodrama but a comedy of sex, greed and real estate, produced under the auspices of the Independent Theatre Society, a subscription club, formed to escape the Lord Chamberlain's Office censorship.
      By the cacophony of the people who savagely attacked his politics Shaw probably gloated with pleasure. The fledgling playwright knew that by the tumultuous reaction he was a good playwright and he would eventually garner the Nobel Prize in literature.  
       This play is one of three plays Shaw published as Plays Unpleasant in 1898; they were termed "unpleasant' because they were not intended to entertain their audiences, as traditional Victorian theater was expected to, but to raise awareness of social problems and to censure exploitation of the laboring class by the unproductive rich.  
       The play had originally been written in 1883, as a collaboration with William Archer, but the two fell out and this first attempt was abandoned.  Shaw reorganized the fragments, and added a third act. With this play Shaw began the creation of modern English drama. which went on to revolutionize the English theater.The other plays in the Plays Unpleasant group are The Philanderer and Mrs. Warren's Profession.
      At a time when most other playwrights were writing sappy works, Shaw's plays tackled many hot topics from morality versus finance, sexual manipulation, and the ever present duality of the class system. This is a rare opportunity to see the master craftsman of the genre, George Bernard Shaw, at his most comedic with David Staller, the director putting a fresh spin on the play. 
      David Staller, like Shaw, is a  like-minded humanitarian, the current production stays true to the Shaw classic but Staller imbues it with a pristine modernism that resonates with audiences today. No better director could have spearheaded this Widowers' Houses new production. 
      In 2006 Staller created the Gingold Theatrical Group to present works championing human rights and free speech using  the writings and humamanitarian precepts of George Bernard Shaw as its platform. Mr. Staller also casts and directs the PROJECT SHAW reading series which is held at Symphony Space. 
    Who was Gingold? Many of us still remember Hermione Gingold, the enchanting English actress known for her sharp tongued, eccentric persona.  For many years Hermione was a great friend of David Staller in theatrical circles and play readings. He formed the GTG as a tribute to the actress.
      Is Shaw relevant today? In keeping with people's views on social and political issues WIDOWERS' HOUSES not only addresses the hidden agenda of the rich profiting from the poor but it does so in a comedic commentary that unveils the true character of an idealistic doctor who find his principles compromised. Such a scenario was addressed by Shaw in 1892 but it still ranks as one of the most thought provoking discourses that confronts society even today. 
       It is interesting to note that the costumes and the stage settings are rendered in a monochromatic scheme that allows the audience to focus primarily on the developing revelations of sex, greed and real estate in repartee delivered with comedic relief.
      Where: The Beckett Theater, Theater Row, 420 West 42nd Street is host to Widowers' Houses, a TACT (The Actors Company Theater) and Gingold Theatrical Group production with previews beginning on March 1st. The official opening is March 13 with a limited engagement to April 2. or call 212.947.8844 and use promotion code TRWHDM.
        Ta Ta darlings, I have already purchased my ticket for Widowers' Houses and hope to see you there. Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at and click on the direct link to a Blog that interests you, located in the left hand column on my home page.

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