(gingold) Once a month, on Monday nights, David Staller and the Gingold Theatrical Company’s Project Shaw present a professional reading of one of George Bernard Shaw’s plays at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater in the Symphony Space. In this way, he gets great actors taking a busman’s holiday on the night most theaters are dark to read the plays. The performances are terrific and just short of a full staging. We used to have to travel to Niagara-on-the-Lake to the Shaw Festival there and occasionally one of his plays was mounted in New York, but now, we have it close by. (wiki) David Staller does a masterful job of editing the plays and in the case of Man and Superman, it ran a mere three hours instead of the author’s version at six hours. Read the full play, with Shaw’s preface of course, but see the edited version. David also directs in flawless fashion.
(amazon) Incomparably witty, each play deals with the turn of the 19th century zeitgeist and Shaw’s outlook on such subjects as free love, women’s rights, vivisection and and social restraints. In fact, the Shaw Project is dedicated to “presenting works celebrating human rights and free speech using the humanitarian vision of GBS as our guide.”
(Maurice Evans, Artnet) Man and Superman–Nietsche’s term of course–slyly refers to the real superman, Woman. It always surprised me that Shaw is sometimes called a misogynist, when his best and most loved characters are women and the men who love them.
In Man and Superman, Jack Tanner strains with every fiber to avoid being the prey of Anne whom the audience knows he is crazy about. When he discovers she wants to marry him, he escapes to Spain to elude her, all to no avail. (Peter O’Toole) He gives up and falls inevitably into her arms at the end. She wants him because he doesn’t idealize her and she won’t have to live up to an impossible image; he wants her because she has always dazzled him and the “life force” is too strong for him.
The “Don Juan in Hell” scene, included in this performance but not always, shows us Hell as the best place to be in the afterlife and Heaven, boringly sinless, the only place where Jack can find respite from Anne. It is long, profound and sometimes, I regret to say, a bit windy. But it’s always good to hear it.
Shaw was a great music critic and we read his insightful essays today. He interweaves the story and characters of Mozart’s Don Giovanni into the play, and here casts Donna Anna as a frightful bore who is running away from the man she should clearly submit to–Don Juan. (undergroundbooks) Knowing his devoted audience well, instead of playing a selection from Don Giovanni, David led everyone in a chorus of “La Ci Darem La Mano”during the intermission.
We are grateful to the performers who love to read wonderful works for fun, to the Shaw Project which showcases all his plays, and to GBS who has provided us with a lifetime of wit and wisdom. Tickets are $40 and we must have enjoyed ourselves because the air conditioning broke down and everyone stayed.
The superb cast: Paxton Whitehead; Ryan Spahn; Christian Conn; Kate Abbruzzese; Karen Ziemba; Susannah Perkins; Rajesh Bose; Christian DeMarais; Thom Sesma and Lenny Wolpe.
Don’t miss the annual full Shaw production in the fall, Caesar and Cleopatra https://gingoldgroup.org/season/. These are always first rate and the tickets are reasonably priced. If you want a preview, watch the delicious film starring Claude Rains and Vivien Leigh.
Quotes from M&S:
“Hell is full of musical amateurs,”
“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”