MONMOUTH — The perennial state of confusion between parents and their almost-adult children is at the heart of “Misalliance,” the George Bernard Shaw play now on stage at the Theater at Monmouth.
Shaw’s wit turns the upper class stuffiness of 1910 England upside down and inside out. It’s good fun with lots of irony in the dialogue, and plenty of action and comedy.
Once again, Cumston Hall’s exquisitely restored miniature opera hall is the perfect setting for this beautifully staged production. Costume designer Katherine Fritz has done a fine job of dressing the cast in styles of a century ago.
David Greenham, TAM’s producing director, reminds audiences in his program notes that Shaw once said, “When a thing is funny, search carefully for a hidden truth.” It’s soon apparent that Shaw’s humor is a powerful weapon against pomposity.
“Misalliance” is Shaw’s opportunity to catalog all kinds of mismatches in post-Victorian English society. He highlights the past and present follies of love and marriage with every one of the play’s characters, and along the way he pokes holes in British balloons of privileged aristocracy, truth and honor, the proper role of women and social justice.
The plot revolves around Hypatia Tarleton, a restless young lady who is desperately hoping for some adventure to drop into her life. That’s exactly what happens when a small plane crashes into the family estate’s greenhouse. The pilot, a Polish daredevil and circus acrobat, and her tall and handsome passenger set off a laugh-filled second act.
Annie Rubin plays Lina Szczepanowska with scene-stealing zest and humor. Brian Bell also comes up with a fine portrayal of the principled gentleman who can’t resist Hypatia’s not-so-subtle advances.
Grace Trull gives an outstanding performance as the repressed Hypatia who is engaged to cry-baby Bentley Summerhays. Mike Anthony, as the wimpy Bentley, is a delight with his tantrums at the slightest provocation.
Gene D’Alessandro gives an excellent portrayal of John Tarleton, Hypatia’s father. He has made his fortune in the unglamorous manufacture of underwear. His playboy son Johnny, portrayed by Donte Fitzgerald, now manages the business while father runs around England endowing libraries.
Mark S. Cartier plays Lord Summerhays, Bentley’s father. It turns out that this perfectly proper aristocrat also had some liaisons with the irresistible Lina, not to mention a proposal to his son’s intended wife.
Another character with a short appearance in the second act is Julius Baker, a clerk seeking justice for his deceased mother who worked for Tarleton and had an affair with him. J.H. Smith III gives this gun-waving invader a full measure of hilarity.
TAM gives audiences a chance to see all of its exceptionally talented professional actors in a variety of roles during the round of repertory performances through late August. It’s nice to see the actors in many totally different characterizations.
Other plays being presented in repertory by TAM this summer are Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” and “Pericles, Prince of Tyre;” Mark Twain’s “Is He Dead?;” and Oscar Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost,” which is appropriate for families. The schedule of shows can be accessed online at www.theateratmonmouth.org. For information about shows and tickets, call 933-9999.