Staging an older work, especially one that groans under the weight of the adjective “classic,” can be a daunting task. It’s essential that the artists involved mine the freshness in the piece in order to breathe life into it and make it appealing to contemporary audiences.
Happily, such is the case with the Chrysalis Stage production of George Bernard Shaw’s 1897 Candida, a comedy of manners that is as entertaining today as it surely was more than 100 years ago. It’s brightly performed by an ensemble that knows how to bring out the humor in the piece.
The play focuses on a romantic triangle consisting of Reverend James Morell, a popular pastor in the suburbs of London; his charming and headstrong wife, Candida; and Eugene Marchbanks, a lovesick teenage poet who has recently come into their lives.
Eugene has not only fallen head-over-heels for Candida, he is horrified by what he perceives to be the miserable, mundane conditions she is forced to live under with the reverend. He confronts Morell, proclaiming that the reverend doesn’t deserve such a magnificent wife. Morell’s grasp on his comfortable life begins to slip, and he forces a confrontation, demanding that Candida choose between the two men.
The cast is uniformly excellent. Casey E. Lewis is hilariously pompous as Morell, but he reveals deeper aspects of his personality as his self-satisfied existence is threatened by Eugene. Molly Leland gives an appealing performance as Candida, giving her a backbone while still making it completely understandable why both men love her. And as Eugene, Michael Uribes mugs just enough to punctuate the humor in his character without pushing it too far into jarring hamminess.
Robert Harlan Green is enjoyable as Candida’s plain-spoken, less-than-ethical father, and Adam Ferguson and Laura Lee Bahr also provide amusement as Morell’s fawning curate and personal secretary.
Director Andrea Gwynnel Morgan keeps the play moving at a brisk clip, and though the dialogue is over a century old, it’s got a contemporary snap. Courtney Sutton’s costumes are evocative, and the set design by Aaron Morgan is efficient. It’s not a complicated production, nor does it need to be. The performances are what’s important here.
Candida plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. until March 11 at the Complex Hollywood’s Flight Theater, 6476 Hollywood Boulevard. Reservations can be made here.
Photos: Aaron Morgan