By Roger Bloom | NB Indy
South Coast Repertory and Artistic Director Martin Benson again tackle George Benard Shaw – “Misalliance” this time – and again squeeze all they can out of the script.
There are fine performances and great moments in the SCR staging, with any shortcomings traceable more to Shaw than to the local company.
The play all takes place in a room off the garden at the home of John Tarleton, a nouveau riche underwear magnate, and we initially meet a family consisting of a big-personality father, a socialite mother, a son being groomed for the family business (and probably not up to it), and a daughter who wants out to find “adventure.” There’s also a dandified young aristocrat in residence, courting the daughter.
Once these dynamics are established – at more length than necessary – the play perks up when a plan crash lands into the greenhouse, depositing a pilot and a flamboyant female passenger, who, having torn up the vines, then proceed to shake the Tarleton household to its foundation.
It is a play about love, both romantic and filial, that ultimately is curiously lacking in it, substituting at the end stoic acceptance and even a cynical coldness for the fuzzy warmth more typical of this genre.
But it affords several of the actors a chance to reveal unexpected depth, especially Dakin Matthews as the patriarch, Melanie Lora as his daughter, Hypatia, and in a revelatory performance toward the end, Amelia White as Mrs. Tarleton. All rise to the occasion and then some.
On the other hand, several of the characters are written so they never go beyond comic stereotypes, but here again the SCR company surpasses expectations. Kirsten Potter is perfectly over the top as the Polish acrobat with the unpronounceable surname who falls from the sky. Wyatt Fenner does everything he can to milk laughs from the role of the foppish Bentley. But the real standout in this group is JD Cullum as the inept anarchist Baker, whose physical comedy is even funnier than the Shaw dialogue he wraps it around.
As usual at SCR, the technical aspects – under scenic designer Ralph Funicell, costume designer Maggie Morgan and lighting deisnger Tom Ruszika – are flawless.
“Misallliance” will run through Oct. 10. For tickets and information, call 714-708-5555 or visit www.scr.org.