Idyllwild’s Stratford Players will present “Engaging Shaw,” by John Morogiello, a scintillating comedy and battle of wits based upon the true story of the courtship of George Bernard Shaw by wealthy heiress Charlotte Payne Townshend.
At the time of the play, Shaw, a literary critic just beginning to dabble in playwriting, was a confirmed bachelor dedicated to his own personal pleasure, work and evolving commitment to socialism and social justice. Payne Townshend, feisty and every bit his equal, was not deterred by Shaw’s disinterest in marriage. According to her, “No man can resist a woman once she has set her sights upon him, unless thwarted by another woman.”
Morogiello weaves a fabric reminiscent of Shaw’s plays — razor-sharp barbs and sparkling banter, enlivening moral, political and economic issues of substance.
Helmed by Kathleen Walker, Stratford board member and New York and regional theater actor, “Engaging Shaw” is like a tennis match — the serve and volley of brilliant words from four talented actors designed to keep the audience engaged from beginning to end. Starring Meg Wolf as Townshend, John Wesley Leon as Shaw, with Chris Morse and Rosalyn Leon as Sidney and Beatrice Webb, “Engaging Shaw” continues Stratford’s commitment to producing stimulating theater fare.
Said Walker, “This is a very intellectual play. Much of what Shaw says is taken from his journals. It’s also very human and very funny. These are four lovingly flawed human beings trying to connect. It’s such a human thing.”
Although billed as a staged reading, Walker has expanded “Engaging Shaw” to include more movement and less attachment to script. “We had to have the movement to make it work,” she noted. “The four actors are wonderful and this is a play with so much substance, so much for the audience to chew on.”
As one reviewer noted, “If there’s a minute of the play that’s less than clever, you’ll be hard pressed to find it.”
“Engaging Shaw” plays on Sunday, April 12 and 19 at 2 p.m. and Saturday, April 18 at 2 p.m. at the Christian Science Church on Cedar Street. See the Stratford site for reservations and ticket information, www.stratfordplayers.com.