by George Bernard Shaw
Walnut Street Theatre, Studio 5
January 28 - February 22, 2015
Directed by Tina Brock
The House of John Tarleton in Hindhead, Surrey, the beginning of Summer, 1909.
Stage Manager/Light and Sound Operator
Johanna Austin / AustinArt.org
Produced by arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.
Misalliance is made possible in part by generous grants from Wyncote Foundation; The Samuel S. Fels Fund; The Philadelphia Cultural Fund; Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia; The Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts program of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency with support also provided by PECO and administered regionally by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance; The Charlotte Cushman Foundation; Plannerzone and by YOU: over 60% of our annual budget comes from ticket sales and individual contributions.
Running time is approximately 2 hours and 25 minutes. There will be one ten minute intermission.
*Member Actors Equity Association
“…big ideas, quotable lines, interesting characters and surprising plot turns... enjoyable production… lively cast… wonderfully relentless… the debate sparkle(s)”
--Toby Zinman, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“…swift and cleverly honed… all joy…. characters are outlandish… excellent comic timing... Shaw gleefully throws dirt into our eyes”
--Julius Ferraro, Phindie.com
"a spirited series of debates that are as fresh and outrageous today as they were over a century ago."
--Mark Cofta, Philadelphia City Paper
"...keeping Shaw’s discussions and theories about humanity lively... fast-moving production... eminently listenable and crackingly entertaining."
--Neal Zoren, NealsPaper.com
--Robert F. Whitman, Shaw and the Play of Ideas
George Bernard Shaw’s seldom-performed, delightfully witty Misalliance written in 1909, is an oh-so-relevant inspection of potentially unsuitable unions: parents and their children, aristocracy and the nouveau riche, truth and honor, love and money (as reasons for marriage), youth and age, the ineptitude of government, the benefits of physical exercise, the paucity of ideas in theater and the necessity of maintaining good drains in English country houses. Shaw introduced Misalliance as a controversial, new form, a “discussion play,” in which he proposed no clear heroes or villains as he considered the social function of drama in the beginning of the 20th century.
As we forge into Year Nine of intelligent, unusual, seldom-performed and hopefully, often hilarious theater, we have you to thank for our sustenance. Over 60% of the IRC’s annual budget comes from ticket sales and individual contributions. Help us continue our small but mighty endeavor by spreading the word to a like-minded friend? We continue to blossom each year because of the unflagging support of our loyal audience.
Enjoy your Superabundant Vitality!
Producing Artistic Director
January 31, 2015
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Shaw's bad-match fest is a good show
by Toby Zinman
George Bernard Shaw stuffed enough big ideas, quotable lines, interesting characters and surprising plot turns into Misalliance to furnish half a dozen contemporary plays. Currently playing at the Walnut Street Theatre's Studio 5, IRC's enjoyable production features a large, lively cast on a too-small stage.
This comedy of ideas' plot is about many misalliances: people engaged to marry the wrong people, parents and their adult children misunderstanding each other, the wrongheaded government its beleaguered citizens, the smart money-makers and the aristocratic money-inheritors, and one of Shaw's favorite themes: the old-fashioned woman and the "new woman."
We are in a greenhouse, a lovely, airy set by Anna Kiraly which seems designed to make the actors' entrances and exits oddly awkward. We quickly see the hopelessness of the match between restless Hypatia (Heather Cole, who desperately needs a better hairdo and better costuming) and high-strung, useless Bentley (Andrew Carroll).
It will soon be revealed that Lord Summerhays, Bentley's father, (Paul McElwee) has been inappropriately smitten with Hypatia as well. Soon Bentley's best friend (John D'Alonzo—whatever accent is that?) drops in, and Hypatia is smitten with him. Through it all, her brother (David Stanger), the crass know-it-all, smugly pontificates.
But that's not the half of it. Wait until the Polish acrobat (Kristen Norine) falls out of the sky in a crashed airiplane. And a would-be murderer (Langston Darby) shows up with a (mostly unfollowable) set of grudges.
The real star of the show—both IRC's production and Shaw's script—is David Bardeen as the paterfamilias, John Tarleton, the underwear tycoon. Bardeen delivers the ideas with naturalness and ease and can make his eyes light up with excitement as he advises everybody to "Read." Mrs. Tarleton (Emily Schuman) is, if too young for the role since she looks the same age as her children, excellent as well.
Tina Brock's direction is wonderfully relentless, moving both the show and the debate along at high speed. As Lord Summerhays, late of the Raj, notes, ''Democracy reads well; but it doesn't act well, like some people's plays.'' The challenge with any Shaw play is to make the debate sparkle, to make it "act well," and, most of the time in this production, it does.
Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium at the Walnut Street Theatre, Studio 5, 9th & Walnut Sts. Through Feb.22. Tickets $20-22. Information: www.IdiopathicRidiculopathyConsortium.org
February 2, 2015
MISALLIANCE (IRC): Swift, honed, talky
by Julius Ferraro
Intellectual theater is not in its heyday, and there is much agony against the “talky” play. Tina Brock’s production of MISALLIANCE for Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium is swift and cleverly honed, and the second half in particular is all joy. The first half, with its ponderous monologues, confronts the problem of the garrulous play head-on.
MISALLIANCE is a kind of problem play. It’s neither one of George Bernard Shaw’s “important,” issue-forward pieces—Major Barbara, Mrs. Warren’s Profession—nor a straight-up farce. In this way, it gives a director a bit of a blank slate. The real difficulty, thought, is that the first half follows what was a new form at the time and is still mainly unheard-of: a meandering discussion of ideas among friends and family. Then a plane crashes through the greenhouse, bringing with it a few more characters, a bit of chaos and, most importantly, scandal.
Brock’s style is to take classic comedies—the kind we know, but that rarely get done—and present them with uncommon faithfulness to the author’s intention. The treat here is that we see what these plays are really about. We also see how much time has passed, and question whether these plays retain their relevance.
So Brock’s solution is character-based, and this production is at its best when the characters are outlandish, nearly clownish. The fun is in watching her actors reach for the outrageous unreality, and a few really nail it. Andrew Carroll daubs just the right measure of sinister plotting onto Bentley’s blubbery fits, and hits every laugh with delightful hysteria. Similarly on-the-button is Kristen Norine’s Lina, brings fierce good humor to the no-nonsense, dogmatic acrobat.
There is a delight, too, and even surprise, in Heather Cole’s hyperactive, manic Hypatia, and the ADD thoughtlessness of this child rings true—when Cole isn’t speaking too quickly for us to understand her.
There really isn’t a protagonist in the play, but the most substantial role is John Tarleton (David Bardeen), who is faced with a serious problem: he must publicly and repeatedly proclaim his love for his family, when he really feels nothing of the kind. He’s smart enough to recognize this periodically, but has no mental discipline, and is too frivolous to act on any of many ideas—the moment-to-moment digressions which Bardeen manages with excellent comic timing, and counterpoints with sufficient gravitas in his eventual emotional uproar.
Tarleton’s problem is the problem Shaw presents. Underneath the manic joy of his humor, and the outlandish, satirical characterizations, is an idea paradoxically commonplace and universally reviled: love, for all of its wonderful qualities, is a crapshoot, a competition, and even an invention, whether it’s between married couples or family.
Brock keeps these characters outlandish but likable. But in a medium fraught with love stories—where “important ideas” are hammered into the age-old question of who gets to sleep with whom—Shaw gleefully throws dirt into our eyes and says: yours is a sick obsession. [Walnut Street Theatre Studio 5, 825 Walnut St., Floor 5] January 28-February 22, 2015; idiopathicridiculopathyconsortium.org.
February 3, 2015
Philadelphia City Paper
by Mark Cofta
When: Thu Feb 5 - Sun Feb 22
Location: Philadelphia , PA
Venue: Walnut Street Theater
By Mark Cofta
George Bernard Shaw's idea-infused dialogue might not seem the ideal fit for absurdist specialists Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, but his more fanciful scripts, like 1909's delightfully silly Misalliance, certainly come close. Director Tina Brock's adept cast juggles visitors falling from the sky, a man with three fathers and another looking to avenge his mother, a feminist Polish acrobat and multiple marriage proposals in a whirlwind of clever talk. David Bardeen excels as underwear magnate John Tarleton, whose shopkeeper success leads him to examine lofty matters of life and death, parents and children and the meaning of love. In one hectic afternoon, his world flips upside down in a spirited series of debates that are as fresh and outrageous today as they were over a century ago.
Walnut Street Theater
825 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
February 5, 2015
Misalliance - The Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium at Studio 5
by Neal Zoren
Among the many human traits George Bernard Shaw figured out and wrote about is the people most likely to be strangers to each other are parents and their children.
In “Misalliance,” people are always confiding to others what they would withhold from their progenitors or progeny. There are also class divides and gender barriers to explore. Shaw half wonders how the world gets its work done considering how many obstacles there are to simply getting along. Talkative and liberal-minded as his characters are, there are matters too delicate for a mother or father to talk in front of his or her own child, even though conversation runs free when other people of the children’s age are present. Idealization or myths that one’s parents or children don’t have the same thoughts or experiences as everybody else are rife among the characters. No one, for instance, likes to think of their parents conceiving them or that a child might be a nuisance to others.
Who talks to whom about what in “Misalliance” is part of its fun. A man for instance doesn’t know one of his former mistresses had a son, yet his wife knows it because the woman came to see her and spoke frankly when she was having financial troubles.
Then there’s the people who talk instead of do. The Tarletons and their guests, the Summerhayses, are fairly active people when it comes to business or government, but they opt for a calm country life when not occupied with their work. Lina Szczepanowska, who comes from a line of Polish acrobats and daredevils, makes it a point of honor to risk her life in some adventure every day.
Shaw also uses Lina to put the kibosh on gender expectations. When she comes crashing through the roof of the Tarleton conservatory in an airplane accident, the amazed Tarletons and Summerhayses can’t wait to see the person who pulled off an amazing physical feat that saved the other passenger’s life and are shocked to learn their hero and new guest is a woman. Even the other passenger, Joey Percival, a schoolmate of Bentley Summerhays, and one who had the benefit of three fathers, is stunned to find the person the Aviation Society engaged for him to fly with is a woman.
So much conversation and debating go on, and so many ideas are advanced in “Misalliance,” it’s difficult to encapsulate it all in a review of Shaw’s radiant comedy.
No matter. The Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, which usually leans towards the more obscure and absurd, is keeping Shaw’s discussions and theories about humanity lively in Tina Brock’s fast-moving production that brings Shavian badinage to a vibrant head and makes all eminently listenable and crackingly entertaining.
Brock’s cast go through their spaces with a maximum of spirit. The life force Shaw explores in “Man and Superman” seems to flow freely in all of their veins. In addition to the animation Brock’s troupe gives their characters, I doubt there has been another company that is so uniformly gifted in diction and projection. The “Misalliance” cast has strong, booming voices that convey urgency and earnestness while never stinting in finding the humor in Shaw’s thoughts or dialogue. John Tarleton, Sr. is a reader and spouting intellect is more of a blood sport than a leisurely activity in his home that is decorated with stacks of books.
Another source of misalliance is the reaction to other people’s ideas. Everyone at the Tarleton manse has a strong opinion about something, even the relatively quiet and self-contained Mrs. Tarleton. Other may equally strong counter arguments. It takes all kinds to make a world, and Shaw set all kinds of folks talking about just that idea in his play.
Brock keeps her characters moving as fast as their lips and their mouths. Hers is not a relaxed production but one that shows people of vitality looking to live their lives to the fullest and explain how they’re doing it.
John Tarleton is a successful businessman, but he would rather be a writer and a philosopher. He can’t quite give up the business that earns him a fortune and keeps growing no matter what he does to ease its evolution, so he reads voraciously in his spare time and finances dozens of free libraries throughout Great Britain. One of the ironies in “Misalliance” is someone who holds a grudge against Tarleton talks about how poverty has made him reliant on libraries to satisfy his yen for literature.
John Tarleton, Jr. is the opposite of his Dad. He is a man of action who likes to keep fit and would rather go over the business’s account books than follow his father’s advice and read Darwin, Ibsen, Chesterton, or others. Johnnie’s foil is Bentley Summerhays, the effete son of a British imperial governor, who points out that Johnnie is all body and no brains while he has no physique and is all brains. Bentley takes advantage of being the youngest on the premises by having tantrums and seeking solace whenever his vanity in wounded., In Shaw’s spirit of misalliance, Bentley’s childish behavior embarrasses his father but earns him the comfort of Mrs. Tarleton and her daughter, Hypatia, to whom Bentley is engaged. Sort of.
Hypatia is tired of all the talk and arguing that goes on about her. She finds her country existence pleasant but uneventful. She wishes for adventure to fall through the roof, and when Lina and Joey arrive, it does.
Lina, of course, is the odd fish in the Tarleton circle. While the others all have regulated lives of one sort or another, Lina goes about the world looking for danger and earning her living by performing high wire acts that have sustained her family for generations.
You see all Brock had to cope with in putting together this production in a way that would bring all of this to the fore. She made a good choice is keeping all brisk and vigorous. The people we meet are never slack or sedentary. Their minds, bodies, and tongues work fast. That’s where the excellent diction comes in. Brock can set her production at a zingy tempo because her actors can be understood at any speed. The good news is the pace, though quick, seems real. The cast doesn’t race through the play as if it was a cartoon. They make sure the clarity and comedy of Shaw’s ideas come through. This is a good performance, and the cast seems to having a good time they relish sharing with the IRC audience.
David Bardeen sets the tone as John Tarleton, a man who cannot be bored because he has so many interests and enjoys hearing everyone’s ideas about everything. Bright-eyed and congenial, Bardeen’s Tarleton gives intellect a good name. He is energetic about building his libraries, and he is fond of his family and friends. Tarleton believes reason can solve everything, and he is so well-read as to know where to find the answers and references he needs to advance any argument. About the only people he can’t drive to reading at his pace and level are his wife and children. But they enjoy hearing him talk and, of course, have many ideas of their own. They also appreciate his money.
Emily Schuman keeps pace with her castmates but has a gentler, more soothing approach to her part as Mrs. Tarleton, called Chickabiddy by her husband when no one else is around. Schuman shows the common sense of Mrs. T. Because she is wealthy, she’s been invited to society gatherings and find the conversation there appalling. All about drainage and diphtheria, both of which have touched her home. Mr. Tarleton speaks of reason. Mrs. Tarleton practices it and has a common way with everyone that shows her experience and comfort with the basic things in life. Schuman delivers her lines in an authoritative way that is also warm and maternal. She knows exactly how her character should behave towards the petulant Bentley and a young man who comes to call seeking revenge for a slight he believes is Mr. Tarteton’s responsibility. She also knows how to put her husband in his place when he becomes too fanciful.
Kristen Norine is lustrous as Lina. She is clear and not susceptible to charm as she talks of her daily perils and how threatening her life makes her feel life all the more.
Lina is the most individual and outspoken of all “Misalliance’s” characters. Norine wears that independence as if it’s part of her costume. She also demonstrates Lina’s derring-do when he helps Mr. Tarleton from a scrape and removes a whining Bentley from a room on her back.
Andrew Carroll, so noble in a heroic role last season, shows he is a deft character actor and comedian with his performance as Bentley. Even when Bentley is relatively calm and even being suave, Carroll lets you see the boy who can become tactically emotional at any moment.
Paul McElwee, in a gray day coat with tails and former trousers, is the picture of a British diplomat, one who speaks openly on the difference between how people think the provinces are governed and what it takes to really do the job. McElwee captures the formality of Lord Summerhays while being comfortable in demonstrating he is a man of the world and one who can read the bigger picture in situations set before him. McElwee also has a great scene in which he’s embarrassed for having played a cad.
David Stanger’s John Tarleton, Jr. is the one character who has no interest in books or debates about life. Stanger, always standing firm and stalwart, and always looking for a way to poke fun at his intellectual companions, is the image of the practical man of affairs whose pastime is sport, boxing in particular, and who prefers to have a beer, a few laughs, and a discussion about profits and linen costs instead of this talk, talk, talk with Bentley’s sniveling and his sister being wooed by just about everyone who enters the premises.
Langston Darby is excellent as Baker, the man who comes to the Tarleton estate with a violent purpose, lecturing Mr. Tarleton on the difference between the laboring and merchant classes. Darby’s tension and indignity as he parries with Tarleton about honor and decency is funny and touching at the same time. He can’t believe he’s listening to and entertaining arguments from a man he only wants to throttle. Baker too succumbs to the nurturing talents of Mrs. Tarleton who makes him wonder even more if the classes can meet on even ground. Darby plays this surrender to Mrs. T. beautifully.
Heather Cole conveys the dreaminess of Hypatia, who is less a romantic than someone who just wants something dramatic to happen to enliven her comfortable, worry-free life. John D’Alonzo shows the irony in Joey Percival, who understands the appeal of the Tarleton house, especially after he meets Hypatia, but longs for firmer, quieter ground.
Anna Kiraly’s set fills the small Walnut stage with Victorian splendor, with comfortable stuffed furniture and piles of books enclosed within a conservatory-style greenhouse. The IRC cast has fun peering through the glass panels of Kiraly’s grand structure when Lina’s plane lands. Janus Stefanowicz designed costumes that denoted each of the characters. I especially liked her choice of a simple, straight skirt for Mrs. Tarleton and the formal attire in which she dressed Lord Summerhays.
Brock and her company have made “Misalliance” fun. You can bask in Shaw’s marvelous words and thoughts while being thoroughly entertained and getting a lot of laughs. I smiled broadly throughout the production, and I think the mirth with which IRC troupe presents Shaw’s comments on life is infectious enough to keep you smiling as well.
“Misalliance,” produced by the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, runs through Sunday, February 22, at the Walnut 5, the black box theater on the fifth floor of the Walnut Street Theatre, 9th and Walnut Streets, in Philadelphia. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $22 to $20 and can be obtained by visiting www.idiopathicridiculopathyconsortium.org.
February 3, 2015
by Joe Glantz
Early in the performance of G.B. Shaw's Misalliance, staged by the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium at the Walnut Street Theater Studio 5, two characters discuss whether books should be about plot or about ideas. Make no mistake about it – in Misalliance, the discussion of ideas wins – so much so that when the father, John Tarleton (a successful seller of underwear and owner of the home where the play takes place) says he's run out of things to say - the play ends.
This isn't to say there isn't a plot. There are several plot lines: a plane that falls out of the sky, an intruder who threatens to kill the father as well, and seven or eight different marriage proposals of the father's daughter and the acrobatic passenger who was a passenger in the plane. And there is some character development thought it's mainly to learn which performer is the aristocrat, the socialist, the businessman, the gentleman (he's so sophisticated he has three fathers) and so forth.
Mostly and quite directly (as Shaw and the director, Tina Brock, intend) - this is a play about the topics of day. Throughout, our successful achieving father Tarleton pats himself on the back and constantly admonishes everyone to read – "Read Ibsen, Read Shakespeare, Read Chesterton…" even though he clearly hasn't read any of them and is totally surprised to find that the person threatening him actually has. This also explains why there are not 1, but 12 versions of the Bible, in his house.
The central thrust of the play is the relationship between men and women and what roles each should play and can play in 1910 Edwardian England. The daughter, Hypatia Tarleton, wants adventure as much or more than she wants romance as in this wonderful line - "I don't want to be bothered about either good or bad: I want to be an active verb." The acrobatic adventuress, Lina Szczepanowska (just saying her name is an adventure), is in many ways the woman Hypatia wants to be. She prides herself in being part of a family line that for over 100 years has tried some death defying stunt – which is why she was on the plane in the first place.
The men: Hypatia's fiancé, brother, father and the father of the fiancé - all have their own ideas of relationships beginning with the conviction that the engagement between Hypatia and Bentley, the spineless son of an aristocrat, is the first of many mis-alliances. Other misalliances (and other topics for Shaw's discussion) include parent-child relationships, business vs. aristocracy, fiction vs. real life, socialism vs. everything else and body (food and exercise) vs. brains. The only character who doesn't seem to clamor for change (ala Downton Abbey's constant refrain) is Hypatia's mother, Chicabiddy Tarleton.
Since there are soooo many ideas and the dialogue is so intense, the difficulty in this play and any of Shaw's discussion plays (Man and Superman and Major Barbara for starters) is to keep the audience entertained enough to keep the constant changes in discussion focused and alive so you want to stay in the theater instead of going home and "reading" the play. In this respect, Ms. Brock manages a wonderful balance especially in the second act where the wit of Shaw's lines, the discussion points, the plot and different characters all forge into a wonderful blend. All the performers keep true to the roles in solid and entertaining performances. The father, John Tarleton, played by David Bardeen, stands out. The setting, a backyard indoor porch and the costumes are all professionally done. My only complaint was that the acrobat's accent came on a little too strong. My main wonder is how many of these discussion points would have played when they were first performed in 1910. The secondary one is that over 100 years later, they still resonate today.
The play and production did make me understand why G.B. Shaw and G. K. Chesterton were good friends even though Shaw was a Fabian socialist and Chesterton a conservative. Shaw discussions are diatribes but they don't completely take a point a view. Misalliance has many of Chesterton's paradoxical thoughts - "Everyone's business is nobody's business,'' "If nobody disagrees with you, how do you know you're not a fool?" and "Democracy reads well but it doesn't act well." It's easy to see Shaw saying "Every fool believes what his teachers tell him, and calls his credulity science or morality as confidently as his father called it divine revelation." And Chesterton rebutting "Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously." Other of Shaw's notable influences in the play include Henrik Ibsen, Robert Browning, Tennyson and John Stuart Mills.
The setting, Studio 5 at the Walnut, is an intimate setting of about 50 seats.
Joe Glantz practiced law in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, for 14 years and designed large scale databases for AT&T for five years. He currently works for NextLevel Web Strategies, a legal marketing firm based in Princeton, NJ. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, received his J.D. from George Washington Law School and he has a Masters Degree in Computer Science from Drexel University.
Joe's book, Philadelphia Originals (amazon.com website), was released for publication by Schiffer Publishing in 2009. The book shows that the unique styles (how Philadelphians paint, sing, practice law, tell a joke, cook) of Philadelphia’s most notable professions can be traced back to the perfect complement of the spiritual William Penn and the practical Benjamin Franklin.
His second project. Philadelphia Before You Were Born, is a study of the last time Philadelphia newspapers used artists for all their illustrations. It was published in 2011.
Joe’s many other published writings include a humorous look at book clubs for the Bucks County Writer and the literary stages of a baseball season for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He also writes the Interviews with the Famously Departed Column for the Wild River Review.
Also by Joe Glantz: Interviews with the Famously Departed: George Bernard Shaw Speaks by Joe Glantz