by Lynn on May 30, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

l-r Nigel Shawn Williams and Claire Julien

At the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. Written by George Bernard Shaw. Directed by Tadeusz Bradecki. Designed by William Schmuck. Lighting by Jock Munro. Starring: Wade Bogert-O’Brien, Norman Browning, Krista Colosimo Claire Julien, Graeme Somerville, Nigel Shawn Williams.

Produced by the Shaw Festival.

This is Shaw’s charming comedy about love, marriage and emotional triangles. From the program note by Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell Candida ‘is the story of a classic love triangle. Candida is the woman caught between loyalty and passion. Who will she choose: her pastor husband and a life of wifely duty, or the ardent love of a young poet? Her husband is a dashing socialist parson and his romantic rival is an 18-year-old sensitive and idealistic poet. Who will win her affections? Ultimately Candida must show both men the truth about themselves.”

This production of Candida, valiant though it is, is suffused with sorrow. The original director, Gina Wilkinson, had been preparing for this for about a year. She was a gifted artist who went from directing strength to directing strength. But in November, 2010 she was diagnosed with cancer, and by December 30, 2010 she was dead. The loss to the theatre community is inexpressible.

Tadeusz Bradecki, a frequent director at the Shaw Festival, was asked to come in and take over the production of Candida. The time he had to prepare was ridiculously short—previews began in April. But as he says in his program note, his main aim was to be true to Shaw and Gina Wilkinson’s vision.

As Candida, Claire Julien has a grace, quiet intelligence and a knowing smile that keeps both her husband, Reverend James Mavor Morell, and her 18 year old admirer, Eugene Marchbanks, unsettled. They think they know what’s best for her, but she might have other ideas. She expresses them in the softest voice and the smartest of reasoning.

As Morell, Nigel Shawn Williams seems a bit stiff-necked to me. He’s stodgy as opposed to confident in his abilities. However Mr. Williams is dashing and the stodginess works in his favour.

I have a problem with Wade Bogert-O’Brien as Marchbanks. I don’t believe him as a love-sick young man, besotted with an older woman. He’s more petulant that love-sick. And I don’t get the sense this character as played by Mr. Bogert-O’Brien ever wrote a poem or had an affinity with them either. He is so excitable, so seemingly out of control flitting around the set, that I thought of Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s furniture expressing his love for Katie Holmes. Not a good image.

Under the circumstances, the company does the best they can with this delicate comedy.

Candida plays at the Royal George Theatre until October 30.

Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.