Shaw is Shaw and "Candida" is "Candida," and the Harvard Theatre Group did little to alter that situation last night at the Agassiz Theatre. Which just means that the master's play about a woman, a clergyman, and a poet received the benefits of an excellent dramatic production.
There is little doubt in anyone's mind that "Candida" is a clever play, good Shaw. The celebrated cynic has written his barbs into a smoothly flowing story of a woman and her dependents, of a catalyst and its reagents. The development of the story is neat, clean, and vastly amusing.
But as past performances reveal, it is not foolproof. It is demanding on the actors because in the course of the play both the Reverend James Morell and the poet, Marchbanks, must change attitudes: in the case of Morell, from a self-sufficient windbag to an insecure dependent: in the case of Marchbanks, from a weak dreamer to a noble realist.
HTG's fine cast has managed to fulfill these dramatic requirements in degrees ranging from good to excellent. A variety of action and discussion, under the firm direction of Irving Yoskowitz, proceed without hesitation for three solid acts. There are times when one thinks he is watching an unrestrained farce, and other times when the developments on stage seem to be part of a tightly knit story sequence.
Theodore Thieme has moments of brilliance as Marchbanks. If his physical characterization precedes the transition that Shaw put in the script it is barely noticeable in the overall interpretation. His greatest achievements come in the early and late phases of the poet's development, and at: these times he is sure convincing.
Joanna Brown's performance in a part that has so often been mishandled is rewarding to watch. As one sees her move through the intricate paths of a Shavian woman, he receives the impression of full understanding. There are very few false leads in her portrayal.
If the part of the Reverend was disappointing, it was because of comparison to the other leads. On opening night it was difficult to catch all of Theodore Gershuny's lines. His performance was even, perhaps too even.
Of the supporting players I would single out Allyn Moss as particularly impressive, but Michael Mabry and Pirie MacDonald were also more than satisfactory.