Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cal Shakes - Pygmalion

I have some vague memories of reading Pygmalion and watching My Fair Lady when I was a freshman in high school. It gave my teacher, Mr. Byson, a chance to teach us all about England in general and London in particular. I knew what Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square were long before I spent a semester there as a college student, and I think that it was my teacher's influence that made me a bit of an Anglophile.

I haven't read or seen either of those works since, and I thought that I had remembered them pretty well, but I realized that there was a lot that had slipped my memory when I went to see it at Cal Shakes this afternoon. I remembered Eliza Doolittle and her cockney accent (that is what it is, right?) but I think that I remember more from My Fair Lady. Isn't there a bit about the rain in Spain staying mainly on the plain? And for some reason, I thought that Julie Andrews was in it, but a quick search shows that it was Audrey Hepburn. Oh well, guess I'd better check it out again.

Anyway, today's performance was thoroughly enjoyable, and it all went by rather quickly. The cast did a nice job, with Irene Lucio showing that she has some great comedic chops as Eliza. Anthony Fusco did a great job as the rigid, intelligent, but awfully clueless Henry Higgins. (I like to call 'im 'Enry "Iggins" meself.) And while he might not seem like a main character, I really appreciated L. Peter Callender in the role of Colonel Pickering, as he was able to radiate the good nature of the character, providing an excellent foil for Higgins.

Just like most of the best works of art, this play has a lot of themes that are still relevant today. So long as there are some people who have more than others, we'll have people dividing themselves into groups based on who has more. Even though Britain's class struggles aren't exactly the same as what we experience in America, we've got enough of it that I think it speaks to audiences here as well. Even without all of that, it deals with a very human tendency to disregard the needs and feelings of others.

For my final thought, I love the irony of having a George Bernard Shaw play at a Shakespeare festival. No, I'm not talking about how they're doing non-Shakespeare stuff. They always do that. I'm talking about the fact that when it came to the Stratford playwright, Bernard had this to say: "There is no eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I despise so entirely as I despise Shakespeare."

I won't hold it against him.

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