A Man and Some Women at the Shaw Festival

Before this year we had never seen the very first performance of any Shaw Festival show.  Last Friday afternoon, though, we caught the first preview performance of Githa Sowerby’s A Man and Some Women at the Courthouse Theatre.  I was ready to pounce on glitches but was largely disappointed.  Early on, one of the actors stepped lightly on another’s lines; a bit later, an actor turned to speak to another who hadn’t yet moved to where she was supposed to be.  That was all I caught; first preview or not, there was plenty of polish.

Graeme Somerville

We thoroughly enjoyed this 1914 play, which gives us an emotion-laden look at tensions and secrets in a respectable English family consisting of Richard Shannon (Graeme Somerville), his childless, money-grasping termagant of a wife, Hilda (Jenny L. Wright), his two old maid sisters, and a young visiting cousin, Jessica (Marla McLean).

Our first encounter with the women made us feel sorry for Richard before he appeared on stage.  As they pass an evening together in the parlor, the sisters, Elizabeth (Sharry Flett) and Rose (Kate Hennig), complain that their mother, who has just died, cared only for Richard, not for them, and complain about his tardiness in coming home from the funeral.  Hilda has just rudely turned away a close friend of Richard’s who has called.  (How did they manage to make a woman as attractive as Jenny L. Wright look so frumpy?)  The fiercely uncharitable Rose is tearing up cloths to send to an overseas mission but goes out of her way to make a young cousin whom Richard has taken into his household feel unwanted and shamed because he was conceived out of wedlock.  Hilda is equally unkind to the boy, whom Richard loves; both idle women resent Richard’s spending money that might otherwise come to them.

Kate Hennig

Richard’s sisters hope that, even though they were not favorites of their mother, Richard will bring them news of an inheritance.  After Richard comes home and the older women go up to bed, Rose spies on Richard and Jessica to see if her brother is being unfaithful to his wife.

The play is perfectly crafted; its plot unfolds at just the right pace, building up to a “cliffhanger” at the end of the first act.  After half an hour, we’ve gotten, not just a quick pencil sketch, but a full-blown color portrait of each of the characters.  And portraits of relationships too:  a husband and wife who have nothing in common; then a man and a woman (Richard and Jessica) between whom there is perfect sympathy.

On the evidence of A Man and Some Women and The Stepmother, which we saw and loved at the Shaw several years ago, I’d say that Githa Sowerby had a special talent for villains.  Our audience for The Stepmother was full of righteous indignation against a blackguard and embezzler who deceives and marries a girl  for her money.  Our audience for A Man and Some Women was equally outraged at the hypocrisy of Richard’s blackmailing sister Rose and the selfishness of his wife Hilda, at their cruelty to the fatherless boy, and at their willingness to sacrifice Richard’s happiness for their own ends.

Populated with characters who are almost entirely bad or almost entirely good, the play seems indebted to a lost nineteenth-century tradition of stage melodrama.  But in this play the melodrama is fresh and delicious, never overwrought or over-sentimental.  The characters are not caricatures; we recognize them as flesh-and-blood people.

How much differently might audiences in Sowerby’s day, a hundred years ago, have reacted to the situations in A Man and Some Women?  Would they have identified and sympathized with the fatherless boy as we do?  Today we have not only shed the sense that the sins of parents should be visited on their children, which is well, but have also lost the sense of sin on the part of the parents, which is perhaps not so well.  Clearly the playwright, following in the footsteps of Dickens, thought it necessary to remind the audience of her day that God takes the part of the fatherless (Psalm 146:9) and that charity begins at home.

And in 1914 there was no higher value than an Englishman’s “duty,” about which much is said in this play.  But today we preach “self-fulfillment,” not “duty.”  Would a 1914 audience have felt, on the whole, that Richard’s “duty” to his wife and sisters outweighed his “right” to personal happiness?

The cast of A Man and Some Women was flawless and its entertainment value very high.  It’s hard to criticize anything about the play itself except its awkward title.  The program notes indicate that A Man and Some Women would have come to Broadway in 1914 but for the outbreak of the Great War.  I feel sure that any Broadway impresario would have insisted on a different name for the American production.

Clare Boothe Luce’s The Women at the Shaw Festival

(June 2010) We still think Clare Boothe Luce’s wicked comedy The Women is a great play. But the Shaw Festival’s production of this 1938 play — our long-awaited first chance to see it on stage — doesn’t nearly do it justice. The performances were uneven, and the direction didn’t seem to have any particular focus. 

Deborah Hay as Sylvia Fowler, Helen Taylor as a saleswoman, Heather McGuigan as a department store model, Jenny Young as Mary Haines, and Lisa Codrington as a fitter

The Women is the story of a circle of Park Avenue socialites, their amours, and their cutthroat competition for money and men. We meet them at a bridge party at the home of Mary Haines (Jenny Young), the one woman in the play whom the other women actually seem to like — up to a point. Mary doesn’t gossip like the rest, she isn’t looking to upgrade her husband as some other woman’s expense, and she’s a good mother. 

Moya O’Connell as Crystal Allen

But when the women learn that Mary’s husband Stephen has set up a secret love nest with Crystal Allen (Moya O’Connell), an ambitious floozy who sells perfume at Saks, they turn their claws on Mary and her marriage. Sylvia Fowler (Deborah Hay) urges Mary to visit a gossipy manicurist who, Sylvia knows, is sure to tell Mary the story of her husband’s affair. 

Mary’s mother Mrs. Morehead (Sharry Flett) wisely counsels her daughter to do nothing and to wait until Stephen gets tired of Crystal. But her friends, maliciously relishing the the downfall of Mary’s “perfect” marriage, urge her to give him an ultimatum and, if necessary, the boot. When Edith Potter (Jenny L. Wright) “accidentally” reveals the affair to a gossip columnist, Mary gives in and forces the issue; it isn’t long until she’s heading off to Nevada for a divorce. (There are no men in the cast, but the women talk about men like Stephen Haines so much that we form mental images of them and are surprised at the play’s end to realize that we never actually saw them.) 

Jenny Young as Mary Haines

For these women, making disparaging comments about any “friend” who happens to be out of hearing range is casual sport. But director Alisa Palmer has made the show depend so heavily on laugh lines about the women’s gossiping that the play simply doesn’t deliver the biting satire that it should. 

In a moment of inspiration, for example, the playwright chose a maternity ward, of all places, as a setting for a scene that focuses on the utter self-absorption of one of the women. Edith Potter, who has just given birth, drops cigarette ash on her nursing newborn’s face, is amused when a visitor tearfully confides that she is getting a divorce, and is gleeful at the marital shipwrecks of Sylvia Fowler and Mary Haines.

The scene was intended to shock; Ms. Luce surely expected it to inspire not simply laughter, but horrified laughter. In this show, though, the scene’s biggest laugh comes when Edith brightens and instantly forgets how tired she is at the prospect of hearing new gossip. The sight gag overwhelms the point of the scene. 

The actresses consistently fail to deliver lines with the malicious edge that they need. It’s as if the director is willing to let us laugh at female stereotypes (don’t women love to gossip!), but unwilling to show us the sheer awfulness of the amorality of the women. Perhaps Ms. Palmer was afraid the play would lose its appeal as a comedy if the women were truly as unpleasant as Ms. Luce conceived them. But this show needs fewer cheap laughs and more piss and vinegar.

Kelli Fox as Nancy Blake and Jenny Young as Mary Haines

Jenny Young serves well enough as Mary Haines (according to Clare Boothe, “She is what most of us think our happily married daughters are like”), but we thought the only truly satisfactory performances were by Kelli Fox, as the unmarried writer Nancy Blake, who describes herself as a “frozen asset” and views the other women with detached amusement, Sharry Flett, as the gracious, aristocratic Mrs. Morehead, and Moya O’Connell, as the ruthless, predatory Crystal Allen. 

Deborah Hay as Sylvia Fowler, visits Moya O’Connell, as Crystal Allen, in her bath

In general, though, nothing ties the performances of the women together.  They simply don’t act like women from a closed, elite social circle; they’re all over the place.  Deborah Hay, for example, has the delicious role of the clever, treacherous Sylvia Fowler. But she plays the role if Sylvia were a sassy hat-check girl who’d married up, acting as if she were still playing the uncouth Billie in Born Yesterday at the Shaw Festival a year ago. You’d never take Sylva for a member of fashionable society. Again, we fault the director; Ms. Hay’s excellent performance in this year’s One Touch of Venus (see this link) shows that she’s hardly a one-trick pony. 

And you couldn’t have concluded from the evidence of this show that Jenny L. Wright (as Edith), Nicola Correia-Damude (as Miriam Aarons), and Beryl Bain (as Peggy Day) are especially good actresses. 

The Women on film: If you see the abominable 2008 movie The Women advertised on Netflix, don’t waste your time and money. See Emsworth’s review. Look instead for the classic 1939 film directed by George Cukor, with Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Rosalind Russell; it uses much of the dialogue from the play.

Star Chamber at the Shaw Festival (a review)

Star Chamber ensembleWe wouldn’t for the world have missed Star Chamber, the one-act Noël Coward play that the Shaw Festival is putting on as its mid-day show this summer. It’s an absolutely hilarious send-up of self-absorbed actors at a committee meeting. This show starts at 11:30 a.m. and runs for about an hour at the Royal George Theater.

Here’s the storyline, such as it is: One by one, nine people arrive for a committee meeting that is to be held on the stage of a theater where one of them is performing. The nine are a board that is responsible for a old folks’ home for actresses. The serious-minded secretary of the board, Mr. Farmer (Guy Bannerman), who is the only non-actor on the board, is also the only the only one with any real interest in the business of the meeting, which is to consider some badly needed renovations to the home.

Neil Barclay

Neil Barclay

In fact, Mr. Farmer never can get the undisciplined actors to stop gossiping and pay attention to business. Johnny Bolton (Neil Barclay) constantly interrupts with old show business stories; no one listens to him. Dame Rose Maitland (Gabrielle Jones) cares mainly about taking the chair and bossing people around in the absence of the group’s president, Xenia (Fiona Byrne), who is late.

Buliung & broad

Evan Buliung and Fiona Byrne at the board meeting in Star Chamber

When the ditsy Xenia does arrive (looking and behaving very much like Barbra Streisand), she brings her Great Dane and gives it most of her attention. Eventually the actors give up any pretense of getting anything done and gather around the piano for a few songs.

The comic moments — sight gags, tart asides, self-important speeches, and actors playing to stereotype — start slowly, then come faster and faster. Our audience was reduced to continuous, helpless giggling about halfway through the show; we didn’t get control of ourselves till the curtain calls.

We marveled at their split-second timing of the ensemble. We certainly didn’t know any of Noël Coward’s show-business friends, on whom the play was presumably based, but how these characters reminded us of people we’ve met in community theater!

Sharry Flett & Stephen Sutcliffe

Sharry Flett with Stephen Sutcliffe in Sunday in the Park with George

We were glad to see Sharry Flett, who is still stunning, as a strong character again, rather than as a foggy old lady (her role this year in Sunday in the Park with George). Neil Barclay, born to play a ham, is precious as a rotund, veteran song-and-dance man.

The highlight of the songfest at the end was Evan Buliung’s “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” one of Coward’s best-known songs. (Buliung plays a dashing young actor, Julian Breed.) We were delighted to find, just before the show started, that Mr. Buliung’s parents were sitting next to us in the audience. They were very pleasant people who did not seem at all like stage parents and who were clearly very proud of their son (who is also starring in Bernard Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple at the Shaw Festival this summer). We are glad that Evan Buliung is back at the Shaw Festival this year after several years in Stratford (though what a fine Mark Antony he might have made in this year’s Julius Caesar).

Emsworth reviews of other 2009 shows at the Shaw Festival :

John Osborne’s The Entertainer (see this post)
Noël Coward’s Ways of the Heart (see this post)
Noël Coward’s Play, Orchestra, Play (see this post)
Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George (see this post)
Noël Coward’s Brief Encounters (see this post)
Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten (see this post)

Sunday in the Park with George at the Shaw Festival (a review)

Julie Martell in the park

Anthony Malarky and Julie Martell as Louis the baker and Dot

On our way home from Niagara-on-the-Lake, we tried to think how they could have made Sunday in the Park with George more . . . well, more interesting. Better leads? Not the problem. Steven Sutcliffe and Julie Martell (as George and Dot) both sang well, acted well, looked well. We really didn’t think the show was badly paced.

It was hard to pinpoint any particular problem with the Shaw Festival’s show. But we both had trouble staying awake, and so did other people in the seats around us. Rochester friends who saw the show a week later reported the same.

There’s an expression “as exciting as watching paint dry.” That’s not literally what we were doing at the Royal George Theater, but it’s not much of a stretch between that and Seurat - Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jattewatching someone sketching a model and then watching him work on a painting, one tiny stroke at a time, in his studio.

Of course, this Stephen Sondheim musical does tell a story. And it revolves around one of the world’s most celebrated paintings, Georges Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (at the Art Institute of Chicago).

Seurat_bathers[1]

Seurat's large painting Bathers at Asnières is at the National Gallery in London

The first half of this musical play is a fictional vignette in the life of young Georges Seurat, whose first major work, Bathers at Asnières, was mocked by the critics.  George is now applying his innovative, dot-by-dot style to another, even more ambitious painting (ten feet wide) of Parisians enjoying the sun and the sights in La Grande Jatte, an island in the Seine.

Sunday in the Park

George's models for Bathers at Asnières

We meet George on the island working on a sketch for his new painting. His model (and mistress, who is in love with him) Dot is having trouble keeping still for him; she sings a song about how hot and uncomfortable she is. Colorful characters, including a mentally confused old lady (Sharry Flett) who turns out to be George’s mother, wander past George and Dot. They all end up in the painting. Dot is the young woman on the right with a parasol.

Seurat - Port-en-Bessin Entrance to the Harbor (1888 MOMA)

Several years after the scenes in the play, in 1888, Seurat painted Port-en-Bessin, Entrance to the Harbor, also in his pontillistic style. This smaller painting is at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Back in George’s studio, Dot sings about how frustrating it is to have a lover who spends all his nights painting instead of paying attention to her and taking her to the Follies.  Out on the town by herself, Dot meets and is courted by Louis the baker, who is planning to emigrate to America.  Should she marry the steady Louis, who will take care of her even though she is carrying George’s baby, or stick it out with George? Meanwhile, George’s paintings continue to be unappreciated by the Parisian art world. We learn most of this through the show’s songs; there’s relatively little dialogue.

All this takes place in 1884. The second act, somewhat more lively than the first, takes place a hundred years later in 1984 (which, not coincidentally, is when the show was premiered on Broadway). The “George” in the second act (also played by Steven Sutcliffe) is the fictional great-grandson of Georges Seurat, who died in 1891 at the age of 31.

Sunday in the Park3

George works the crowd

Twentieth-century George is an artist too; he creates Chromolumes, which are a kind of electrified sculpture and invention. Like his famous ancestor, he struggles with gaining recognition and funding for his work. At an art museum gala, George unveils and demonstrates his latest Chromolume, which is supposed to relate to Seurat’s masterpiece; with him is George’s very elderly grandmother, who is Dot’s daughter (born in America), and who tells the gathering about the people in Seurat’s painting.  At a reception afterward, George works the crowd, flattering potential patrons for his art. 

Of course Sunday in the Park With George won a Pulitzer in 1984, and who are we to argue? And personally, we enjoyed Stephen Sondheim’s sophisticated score, which riffs off Seurat’s pontillistic style of painting with short jagged motifs and dissonant chords. This music is challenging, but we disagree with those who say the tunes in this show aren’t memorable.

But it must be said that Sunday in the Park With George, taken as a whole, just isn’t compelling drama. The characters aren’t terribly interesting or sympathetic, and if the show’s creators meant to say something profound about Art and the plight of misunderstood artists, we failed to see that it was especially profound. For us the play had a kind of static quality. Much of the time nothing much seemed to be happening; halfway through the first act we felt as if we were waiting for Godot. The energy level rose during the whirlwind of the art museum reception in the second act; only then, and only briefly, did we feel drawn into the lives of the characters.

As for this particular production of Sunday in the Park With George at the Shaw Festival, which is well done, we have no complaints.

Georges_Seurat_-_Les_Poseuses[1]

One of the very few other large-scale paintings by Seurat, titled The Bathers, is at the Barnes Foundation, in Merion, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. A good portion of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is reproduced by Seurat in the background of the Barnes picture.

And we were tickled to see some of our favorite works of art on stage. As nearly as we can determine, the character of Dot, Georges Seurat’s mistress, is not a historical personage, so we didn’t learn much more about Seurat or his famous painting than we already knew. But we do like Seurat, and we enjoyed the fantasy of being present at the creation of Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. And we were amused by the end of the first act, when all the characters arranged themselves on stage in a tableux that recreates the painting.

Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières is also seen on stage early in the first act. And in this show one of Claude Monet’s best-known paintings, Garden at Sainte-Adresse, also makes a cameo appearance in the arms of of a rich American who is carrying it onto a ship that Monet - Garden at Sainte-Adresse (1867)will take him (as well as Dot and Louis the Baker) to America. The scene (improvised by the director and not in the script) represents, we suppose, the cultural drain of art masterpieces from Europe to America. As a matter of history, the use of Monet’s painting is a bit of a stretch. According to information on the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Garden at Sainte-Adresse was purchased from Monet by one Victor Frat, apparently a Frenchman, before 1870. The painting did not come to America until 1926; the Met bought it at a Christie’s auction in 1967.

Emsworth reviews of other 2009 shows at the Shaw Festival :

John Osborne’s The Entertainer (see this post)
Noël Coward’s Ways of the Heart (see this post)
Noël Coward’s Play, Orchestra, Play (see this post)
Noël Coward’s Star Chamber (see this post)
Noël Coward’s Brief Encounters (see this post)
Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten (see this post)

The Little Foxes at the Shaw Festival (a review)

(June 16, 2008) What a difference a director seems to make! At the Shaw Festival (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario), the cast of The Little Foxes is practically the same as the cast of Getting Married (six actors appear in both plays). (I review Getting Married in another post.) In the Shaw comedy, everything comes off like clockwork, and the fun never stops. But the Lillian Hellman drama leaves you waiting for a climax that never really comes.

Emsworth previews the shows on the 2009 Shaw Festival playbill at this post.

I have already complained at length about the ferocious Stalinist ideology of The Little Foxes in this post; in another I have griped about the holes in Hellman’s plot. Despite these objections, the play is a near-masterpiece. Hellman’s characters are frighteningly real, every word in the script tells, and the story builds to what ought to be a shocking denoument.

But not in this production. For the first half of the play (by far the best half) the great questions are whether Horace Gibbens is really going to come home to the nest of snakes that is the Hubbard family (his wife Regina and her brothers Ben and Oscar), and whether he will go along with the siblings’ scheme that he join them in investing $75,000 into a new cotton mill business. When Horace finally does come home, disabled in body but determined to frustrate the machinations of his wife and her brothers, the lines are drawn, and we all brace for heavy weather.

But just when you expect to be squirming in your seats and wiping your perspiring palms on your pants, this production lets you down. Laurie Paton, who is Regina, is an outstanding actress, but here she neither looks or acts like the Jezebel she is supposed to be playing; she looks too pleasant. Nor does David Jansen, as the likeable and sympathetic Horace, project the steely resolve needed for him to win the war of wills with his wife. Between these two sparks do not fly, and in their scenes together the tension does not build.

And so, at the play’s climax, we are not nearly as afraid for Horace, or for his and Regina’s uncorrupted daughter Alexandra (Krista Colosimo), or for any of the other characters, as the playwright wanted us to be. Nor, for a play with harsh political overtones, are we fearful for America, as Lillian Hellman fervently wanted us to be. As for Alexandra, who represents Hellman’s hope for revolution and a more “just” America, Ms. Colosimo is made to deliver all of Hellman’s shrill, socialist soapbox lines at the end of the play at the same high pitch.

I cannot see Peter Krantz, a Shaw Festival regular who plays Oscar Hubbard in The Little Foxes, on the stages of the Shaw Festival without a return of the visceral feelings that he aroused in those that saw him as the predatory pervert in the Shaw Festival’s production of The Coronation Voyage several years ago. My reaction is quite unfair to Mr. Krantz, and after seeing him in Getting Married as the sympathetic, comic Boxer, I thought I might have shaken this unfortunate association. But his character in The Little Foxes is every bit as repulsive as his character in The Coronation Voyage, and as Oscar Hubbard he quite undid the salutory effect of his portrayal of Boxer.

The veteran Shaw actress Sharry Flett is simply wonderful in The Little Foxes as the gentle, abused, alcoholic, but still hopeful Birdie Hubbard (Oscar’s wife). She inspires both our pity and our affection, and the scenes in which she is disrespected or worse are exquisitely rendered. The Shaw’s production is worth seeing for her performance alone. Also highly satisfactory is Lisa Codrington in the meaningful and thematically important role of Addie.

For more about the storyline of The Little Foxes, see this post. For comment on the political implications of The Little Foxes, see this post.

The Shaw Festival’s production of Terence Rattigan’s outstanding 1943 play After the Dance is reviewed in this post.

Getting Married at the Shaw Festival (a review)

Getting Married(June 6, 2008) Performances of George Bernard Shaw don’t get much sharper than the Shaw Festival‘s 2008 production of the comedy Getting Married. This show kept an embarrassing grin on my face for more than two solid hours, the first time something like that has happened since last year’s The Philanderer. Only a repertory ensemble whose members have spent as much time with each other and with Shaw as these have, could do a show like this so well.

These actors understand Shaw’s wit and the rhythm of his cadences, and they deliver his lines so easily and with such timing that we hardly notice that Shaw’s comedy is a vehicle for radical ideas about marriage with which we most certainly do not agree (for instance, the idea that polyandry or marriage for an agreed term of years should be allowed). This production goes down so pleasantly that we hardly notice that, in this hundred-year-old play, Shaw was attacking laws concerning marriage (restrictions on divorce, financial responsibility of husbands for their wives’ torts, and so on) that are now mere historical curiosities. These laws were changed long before most of us were born.

Getting Married is the story of a wedding day that doesn’t come off as planned. Instead of putting on their wedding finery and appearing at the church, the young bride and groom are having second thoughts — not about each other, but about whether marriage carries too many risks, legal and social. Meanwhile, their friends and relatives, some single, some married, some trying to become unmarried, are experiencing their own hilarious crises.

Those who might tend to avoid a Bernard Shaw play because of the long, preachy speeches that slow down many of his plays should know that Getting Married has much less of this than usual. Getting Married was written only a year or two before his best-known play, Pygmalion, and has much the same lively spirit as that comedy.

Getting Married doesn’t really have a lead role. But the Shaw’s cast includes so many practiced scene-stealers that a lead is not missed. Chief among the culprits here are Michael Ball as the philosophical greengrocer Collins, on whom all the characters rely for everything (Alfred Doolittle, in Pygmalion, is undoubtedly a relative of Collins’s), Laurie Paton as the masterful, impossible Mrs. George, and the wonderful Norman Browning, who plays the same harrumphing lovable grouch that he always plays, and to the usual crowd-pleasing effect. Sharry Flett, as the gracious Bishop’s wife, is pitch-perfect. It has seemed to me that there have been fewer meaty roles lately for Michael Ball, my favorite actor at the Shaw, so it was good to see him in top form in Getting Married.

All in all, this show succeeds because of exceptional ensemble work. The real star of Getting Married is the director, Joseph Ziegler, who set the actors on a fine brisk pace.  Seated toward the front of the Royal George Theater, I enjoyed the “stereo” effect Ziegler achieved several times by positioning the actors so that rapid-fire lines from a half-dozen actors flew counter-clockwise around the stage.

I hope the problems that the inimitable David Schurmann was having with his voice the day we saw the show have been resolved. Fortunately, they didn’t detract from his performance.

The only jarring notes came during the bows, when a version of the sixties girl-group hit “Chapel of Love” came blaring out through the p.a. system and knocked the grin off my face.

The first time I experienced this sort of outrage was at the end of the Stratford Festival’s Troilus and Cressida about five years ago. As darkness fell at the end of that earthy and revelatory production, we were assaulted with the Nine Inch Nails tune “Closer,” with its immortal lyric, “I want to f*** you like an animal.” I understand that the Stratford’s new artistic director Des McAnuff has done the same thing at the end of this year’s Romeo and Juliet using the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.”

Enough already, I say. A great play transports us to other times and places. After the curtain falls, I’m in no hurry to be yanked back to 2008. Even less do I want to be dropped off rudely in the sixties. Directors should let us depart in peace.

See Emsworth’s reviews of other shows in the Shaw Festival’s 2008 season, including An Inspector Calls, Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes, and the classic American musical, with music by Leonard Bernstein, Wonderful Town. Terence Rattigan’s After the Dance is reviewed in this post.

Emsworth reviews the Stratford Festival’s 2008 production of Hamlet in this post.