Candida | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Candida, ShawChicago, at First Saint Paul's Church. This play was Shaw's paradoxical response to Ibsen's A Doll's House--though Candida is no more a doll than Nora. The secret strength behind her successful husband, a muscular exponent of Christian socialism, she's being wooed with neurasthenic ardor by the supposedly delicate poet-idealist Eugene Marchbanks. Which is the weaker man? Shaw wryly wonders. Will Candida pick the stronger? What results is a droll model for a marriage in which one partner's strengths perfectly suit the other's weaknesses.

Shaw's sparkling talk and incisive observations are neatly distilled by director Robert Scogin in this sprightly staging. Richard Marlatt brings bluff authority to Reverend Morell, the husband whose eminence comically crumbles before the poet, a lyrical twit (supposedly modeled on the young Yeats). Gary Alexander plays Marchbanks with the requisite tremulous vapidity but needs to suggest the steelier side of this lonely but resourceful dreamer. Tony Dobrowolski brings a delightful blustering bravado and spleen to Candida's father, a roguish capitalist who anticipates Alfred P. Doolittle by almost 20 years. And Lia Mortensen's serene and glorious Candida--a great representative of the Shavian Life Force--fuses industrial-strength common sense with maternal affection for her childlike husband.

Alas, the hard pews and spotty acoustics of this venue are a step down from the Chicago Cultural Center studio, ShawChicago's usual abode.

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