Appealing Victoriana: CANDIDA at ActorsNET of Bucks County

by Robert Beizer

Candida (Carol Thompson) gently teases her devoted husband, Rev. James Morell (George Hartpence) in the play CANDIDA, a captivating comedy by the great British playwright George Bernard Shaw. Produced by the Actors' NET of Bucks County

ActorsNET of Bucks County is presenting a classic early George Bernard Shaw comedy CANDIDA as its fall offering. A very modern late Victorian play. 

CANDIDA is the story of an English cleric James Maver Morell, played with his usual charm by George Hartpence, and his wife Candida Morell portrayed with straightforward strength by Carol Thompson. 

Shaw used this play, as he did others, to explore the social and political themes of the day. He deals with the ideas of Christian Socialism, elements of the beliefs of The Fabian Society and “The Woman Question”, which explored the role of women in a changing society. 

Returning home from a trip to London, Candida brings with her the young poet Mr. Eugene Marchbanks who is obviously much enamored with her. Marchbanks is fervently devoted to Candida and he believes she deserves a better, more exalted life than the one she lives with her husband. Mr. Morell believes his wife deserves his care and protection. 

Candida is seen by Marchbanks as someone divine and that his love is eternal. He wants to rescue her from what he sees as her life of drudgery and her husband’s complacency. 

We get two views of the changing society one through Mr. Burgess, Candida’s father, a member of the growing industrial class, in a wonderful seriocomic turn by ActorsNET veteran David Swartz.  The other  in Morell’s secretary typist Miss Proserpine Garnett played with equal deftness by Susan Blair. Rounding out the cast is Frederick Halperin playing the Rev. Alexander “Lexy” Mill, Mr. Morell’s young curate and assistant. 

Tensions rise as Marchbanks continues his fervent devotion to Candida as Reverend Morell questions his position both professionally and in his marriage. We also see how Candida has been instrumental in creating an environment in which her husband could thrive. 

Mr. Morell decides to go to a speaking engagement leaving Candida at home with Eugene Marchbanks. Marchbanks reads his own poetry to her but she finds her attentions are elsewhere. Marchbanks is about to say something important to Candida when her husband returns from his engagement.  And… 

The rest is best seen in the theater. 

In spite of a few somewhat melodramatic moments, this is a very modern play and deals with issues still resonant with us today. 

Director Mort Paterson has a crisply moving three act play presented with the traditional two intermissions.  He also has designed a very appealing Victorian set which is well suited to the action of the play.  Costumer Cheryl Doyle does her usual fine work with period costumes and the lighting by Andrena Wishnie kept us well informed as to the time of day.  The sound design by Mort Paterson and Susan Blair uses a nice mixture of period songs which have entered the popular culture 

This is a fine production of CANDIDA. It is a great introduction to the work of George Bernard Shaw as it demonstrates both his desire to discuss the issues of the day and his admiration for strong female characters. These are themes touched again and again in his later plays. 

by George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Mort Paterson
October 28 – November 13, 2011
The Actors’ NET of Bucks County
At The Heritage Center
635 N. Delmorr Ave
Morrisville, PA

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