Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Engaging Shaw at the Old Globe

Rod Brogan as George Bernard Shaw (left),  in the Old Globe’s Engaging Shaw, 
gives Shaw the right amount of cocksure centeredness.
Rod Brogan as George Bernard Shaw (left), in the Old Globe’s Engaging Shaw, gives Shaw the right amount of cocksure centeredness.

“George Bernard Shaw” may have been his best fictional creation. The cantankerous genius loved to rant, like a spoiled brat, and turn conventions upside down. He renounced capitalism, organized religion, and social injustice, along with “flesh, fish, fowl, tea, coffee, tobacco, or spirits.” The vegetarian once proclaimed “a man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses.”

For most of his 94 years, he also renounced sex. A virgin until age 29, he said that before he married he had fewer mistresses than fingers on his hand (he offered facile reasons for abstention: his idolized mother never loved him; and he needed to avoid “the complications of sex”). His 40-year marriage, to Charlotte Payne-Townshend, was celibate. How the two came together is the subject of John Morogiello’s witty, talky Engaging Shaw.

As with Shaw’s life, the play probably combines fact with Shaw’s fictionalizing. It begins in 1896. Shaw isn’t the white-bearded icon of his later years. Although already deep into his “character,” G.B.S., he’s brown-haired and broke. He can’t produce a play and is beholden to Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Fabian socialists on the rise, for his livelihood. The play follows a transitional year in his life. In the process, he makes the changes that enable him to flourish.

To hear Shaw tell it, in a letter to Beatrice Webb, his left foot had necrosis of the bone and he was emotionally bankrupt (when a doctor said Shaw was killing himself, he replied, “the prospect was not in the least disagreeable to me”). Charlotte nursed him back to health in the country. He married her, he says, to prevent a “senseless scandal.” His objection to marriage “had ceased with my objection to my own death.” Of course, he adds, Charlotte had to get beyond “such illusions as love interest, happiness interest, and the rest of the vulgarities of marriage.”

According to Engaging Shaw, it was the other way around. At first Charlotte grows accustomed to his face and bluster. Then she falls in love and pursues him. When that doesn’t work, she takes an “unconventional,” Shavian approach: she stops wooing him and hooks a platonic lifemate.

Whether accurate or not, the play becomes The Taming of the Shaw. As Charlotte, Angela Pierce builds a sweeping arc and almost doubles in size by the finale. With each new scene, she becomes more forthright and relentless. It’s as if she bursts from the constraints in Alejo Vietti’s Victorian costumes.

Rod Brogan, whose Irish accent comes and goes, gives Shaw the right amount of cocksure centeredness, though his farcical breakdown plays like pure fiction. Brogan has the script’s best lines. These come straight from Shaw himself and spice the play with so much wit it makes the regular dialogue often feel pedestrian.

Michael Warner and Natalie Gold play the Webbs, who apparently had a marriage of true minds as well. Warner makes Sidney a stiff, comic figure (who could put more genuine belief into his political speeches). Gold’s Beatrice devises schemes within schemes. She also wishes, her eyes suggest, that she could be Shaw’s equivalent to Dante’s Beatrice.

Wilson Chin’s richly detailed set boasts a grand, octagonal table surrounded by an eight-sided room and bookshelves. As details depart, the set literally traces Shaw’s gradual unpeeling. The set also has an unintended effect. Engaging Shaw is entertaining. But it’s a paltry imitation of the master, and makes one yearn for some real Shaw on that stage, and soon.


San Diego is in the midst of a rock-musical festival. The Who’s Tommy’s at the Rep (through this weekend); Hairspray opens at Moonlight on the 17th; Rocky Horror Show’s at the Old Globe in September; and Jesus Christ Superstar comes to La Jolla in November.

Cygnet Theatre’s keeping the festivities in high gear with a sprightly staging of Little Shop of Horrors. Directed by Sean Murray, the production goes back to the musical’s black-and-white, B-movie roots: Roger Corman’s 1960 basement-budget, comedy classic — filmed, he claimed, in two days and a night. On Sean Fanning’s soot-clogged, Skid Row set, everything’s a shade of gray, even the flowers (which look like they just came from their own funeral). In a Kansas-to-Oz flip, the carnivorous plant, Audrey II, is in Technicolor.

Every musical has “get it right or else” songs. Along with the girl-group chorus for Little Shop, which must be up-to-the-minute hip and brimming with attitude (and is at Cygnet), the woman playing Audrey must steal hearts with “Somewhere That’s Green.” Melissa Fernandes does just that, and more. As she sings, it’s as if psychologically bedraggled Audrey imagines a caring, adult relationship for the first time.

Brandon Joel Maier and Phil Johnson hit all the right notes as Seymour and Mr. Mushnik, and Geno Carr shows impressive versatility as a passel of baddies (including the dentist from hell “paid to be inhumane”). David McBean gives Audrey II the requisite booming voice and a drooling urge to convert all of humanity into “plant food.” ■

Engaging Shaw, by John Morogiello
Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, Old Globe Theatre, Balboa Park
Directed by Henry Wishcamper; cast: Rod Brogan, Natalie Gold, Angela Pierce, Michael Warner; scenic design, Wilson Chin, costumes, Alejo Vietti, lighting, Matthew Richards, sound, Paul Peterson
Playing through September 4: Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. 619-234-5623

Little Shop of Horrors, music by Alan Menken, book and lyrics, Howard Ashman
Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs Street, Old Town
Directed by Sean Murray; cast: Brandon Joel Maier, Melissa Fernandes, Geno Carr, Phil Johnson, David McBean, Jacob Caltrider, Cashae Monya, Heather Paton, Rhea Elizabeth De Armas; scenic design, Sean Fanning, costumes, Shirley Pierson, lighting, Chris Rynne, sound, Matt Lescault-Wood, musical director, Tim McKnight.
Playing through September 11; Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Matinee Saturday at 3:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. 619-337-1525

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Matthew Stewart’s protest song earns heavy spins online

“Alternative Facts” uses the catchphrase coined by presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway
Next Article

What San Diego restaurant staffs eat, dumpster diving for dinner

How food critic Naomi Wise started her life in San Diego, how food critic Eleanor Widmer ended hers
Rod Brogan as George Bernard Shaw (left),  in the Old Globe’s Engaging Shaw, 
gives Shaw the right amount of cocksure centeredness.
Rod Brogan as George Bernard Shaw (left), in the Old Globe’s Engaging Shaw, gives Shaw the right amount of cocksure centeredness.

“George Bernard Shaw” may have been his best fictional creation. The cantankerous genius loved to rant, like a spoiled brat, and turn conventions upside down. He renounced capitalism, organized religion, and social injustice, along with “flesh, fish, fowl, tea, coffee, tobacco, or spirits.” The vegetarian once proclaimed “a man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses.”

For most of his 94 years, he also renounced sex. A virgin until age 29, he said that before he married he had fewer mistresses than fingers on his hand (he offered facile reasons for abstention: his idolized mother never loved him; and he needed to avoid “the complications of sex”). His 40-year marriage, to Charlotte Payne-Townshend, was celibate. How the two came together is the subject of John Morogiello’s witty, talky Engaging Shaw.

As with Shaw’s life, the play probably combines fact with Shaw’s fictionalizing. It begins in 1896. Shaw isn’t the white-bearded icon of his later years. Although already deep into his “character,” G.B.S., he’s brown-haired and broke. He can’t produce a play and is beholden to Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Fabian socialists on the rise, for his livelihood. The play follows a transitional year in his life. In the process, he makes the changes that enable him to flourish.

To hear Shaw tell it, in a letter to Beatrice Webb, his left foot had necrosis of the bone and he was emotionally bankrupt (when a doctor said Shaw was killing himself, he replied, “the prospect was not in the least disagreeable to me”). Charlotte nursed him back to health in the country. He married her, he says, to prevent a “senseless scandal.” His objection to marriage “had ceased with my objection to my own death.” Of course, he adds, Charlotte had to get beyond “such illusions as love interest, happiness interest, and the rest of the vulgarities of marriage.”

According to Engaging Shaw, it was the other way around. At first Charlotte grows accustomed to his face and bluster. Then she falls in love and pursues him. When that doesn’t work, she takes an “unconventional,” Shavian approach: she stops wooing him and hooks a platonic lifemate.

Whether accurate or not, the play becomes The Taming of the Shaw. As Charlotte, Angela Pierce builds a sweeping arc and almost doubles in size by the finale. With each new scene, she becomes more forthright and relentless. It’s as if she bursts from the constraints in Alejo Vietti’s Victorian costumes.

Rod Brogan, whose Irish accent comes and goes, gives Shaw the right amount of cocksure centeredness, though his farcical breakdown plays like pure fiction. Brogan has the script’s best lines. These come straight from Shaw himself and spice the play with so much wit it makes the regular dialogue often feel pedestrian.

Michael Warner and Natalie Gold play the Webbs, who apparently had a marriage of true minds as well. Warner makes Sidney a stiff, comic figure (who could put more genuine belief into his political speeches). Gold’s Beatrice devises schemes within schemes. She also wishes, her eyes suggest, that she could be Shaw’s equivalent to Dante’s Beatrice.

Wilson Chin’s richly detailed set boasts a grand, octagonal table surrounded by an eight-sided room and bookshelves. As details depart, the set literally traces Shaw’s gradual unpeeling. The set also has an unintended effect. Engaging Shaw is entertaining. But it’s a paltry imitation of the master, and makes one yearn for some real Shaw on that stage, and soon.


San Diego is in the midst of a rock-musical festival. The Who’s Tommy’s at the Rep (through this weekend); Hairspray opens at Moonlight on the 17th; Rocky Horror Show’s at the Old Globe in September; and Jesus Christ Superstar comes to La Jolla in November.

Cygnet Theatre’s keeping the festivities in high gear with a sprightly staging of Little Shop of Horrors. Directed by Sean Murray, the production goes back to the musical’s black-and-white, B-movie roots: Roger Corman’s 1960 basement-budget, comedy classic — filmed, he claimed, in two days and a night. On Sean Fanning’s soot-clogged, Skid Row set, everything’s a shade of gray, even the flowers (which look like they just came from their own funeral). In a Kansas-to-Oz flip, the carnivorous plant, Audrey II, is in Technicolor.

Every musical has “get it right or else” songs. Along with the girl-group chorus for Little Shop, which must be up-to-the-minute hip and brimming with attitude (and is at Cygnet), the woman playing Audrey must steal hearts with “Somewhere That’s Green.” Melissa Fernandes does just that, and more. As she sings, it’s as if psychologically bedraggled Audrey imagines a caring, adult relationship for the first time.

Brandon Joel Maier and Phil Johnson hit all the right notes as Seymour and Mr. Mushnik, and Geno Carr shows impressive versatility as a passel of baddies (including the dentist from hell “paid to be inhumane”). David McBean gives Audrey II the requisite booming voice and a drooling urge to convert all of humanity into “plant food.” ■

Engaging Shaw, by John Morogiello
Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, Old Globe Theatre, Balboa Park
Directed by Henry Wishcamper; cast: Rod Brogan, Natalie Gold, Angela Pierce, Michael Warner; scenic design, Wilson Chin, costumes, Alejo Vietti, lighting, Matthew Richards, sound, Paul Peterson
Playing through September 4: Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. 619-234-5623

Little Shop of Horrors, music by Alan Menken, book and lyrics, Howard Ashman
Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs Street, Old Town
Directed by Sean Murray; cast: Brandon Joel Maier, Melissa Fernandes, Geno Carr, Phil Johnson, David McBean, Jacob Caltrider, Cashae Monya, Heather Paton, Rhea Elizabeth De Armas; scenic design, Sean Fanning, costumes, Shirley Pierson, lighting, Chris Rynne, sound, Matt Lescault-Wood, musical director, Tim McKnight.
Playing through September 11; Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Matinee Saturday at 3:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. 619-337-1525

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Corbin’s Q’s Scrumptiously SLO barbecue

Dee-Lish. I mean, an exceptional combo of tastes.
Next Article

Dress up with cork wedges from Aerosoles and a necklace from Pier 1

“For three months, I existed only on yoga pants and sweatpants.”
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close