Other than Shakespeare, there is no one better at capturing the range and subtleties of social questions than George Bernard Shaw, as we see in Germinal Stage Denver's brilliantly deconstructed production of Getting Married.
Though written relatively early in the venerable playwright's career, all the telltale strengths are evident, including his supreme wit, memorable characters, and deft and unpredictable discussions that blend seamlessly with the plot.
In the preface to the script, Shaw discusses dozens of topics related to marriage, all of which he weaves into the dialogue, some for only a punch line and some as a theme, including: children, property, slavery and indentured servitude, individual development, sex, monogamy and polygamy, women's suffrage, divorce, and Christianity and other religions,
Cecil (Heston Mosher) and Edith (Julie Michalak) are about to marry, and family, friends, acquaintances, and clergy have gathered to solemnize the occasion. Director Ed Baierlein artfully manages to illuminate the idiosyncrasies of 12 personalities and their philosophies in intimate theatrical confines.
|Heston Mosher as Cecil|
and Julie Michalak as Edith
The mother of the bride, Alice (Jenny MacDonald), frets over the details of the reception as she is confronted by Boxer (Eric Victor), a blowhard general, who has pursued her sister, Lesbia (Suzanna Wellens), in a long-term unrequited courtship.
In near apoplexy, Alice turns for advice to Collins (Ed Baierlein), an avuncular hired caterer of sorts, who proceeds to stretch the boundaries of the subject of marriage to its absolute limits by discussing the life of his sister-in-law, Zenobia (Lisa Mumpton), a most liberated woman.
|Jenny MacDonald as Alice|
and Ed Baierlein as Collins
Then Reginald (Randy Diamon), the estranged husband of Alice's friend Leo (Vanessa Bowie) shows up, bringing protestations from Alice and Boxer, because Reginald hit Leo and knocked her down. Reginald says it was the only way for Leo to get a divorce, so that she could run off with her new lover, Hotchkiss (Scott A. Bellot).
Arguments ensue, and Shaw trots in two ecclesiasts—Alfred (Fred Lewis), an Anglican bishop and father of the bride, and Soames (David Fenerty), an ascetic Anglican monk, secretary to the bishop, and a lawyer—to bring the civil, religious, and moral issues to a head.
Getting Married is the 17th production of Shaw's work at the Germinal and Baierlein's familiarity with the master is evident. The large ensemble is compelling throughout, but a couple of outlandish moments stand out, including Fenerty's dour cleric, who draws laughs even before he speaks, and Mumpton's magnetic Zenobia, who goes into a trace, behind the seated Alfred (the bishop) on whose head she places her hands, and cosmically channels a lyric lament on the plight of women through the ages.
|Lisa Mumpton as Zenobia and|
Scott A. Bellot as Hotchkiss
In a striking red dress, one of Sallie Diamond's many fine period creations, Mumpton brings an otherworldly presence to the moment, as if Providence were importuning our attention.
Shaw's resolutions to the various storylines leave us with an assortment of answers and an open-ended question, sure to stir many a fine conversation.
Socialist, vegetarian, feminist, and consummate man of letters, Nobel laureate and Oscar-winner, Shaw was far ahead of his time; his insights on marriage pack a contemporary punch and some great laughs.
Germinal Stage Denver's Getting Married runs through December 12th. 303-455-7108.