Fanny's First Play | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Performing Arts Review

Fanny's First Play

by

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

comment

FANNY'S FIRST PLAY, ShawChicago, at Ruth Page Center for the Arts. This 1911 play was one of George Bernard Shaw's greatest commercial triumphs: it had a longer opening run on the West End than anything he wrote at his creative peak. Yet today Fanny's First Play seems a dull effort: Shaw shelved his preoccupations with women's suffrage and the horrors of war to send up the populist entertainments of the era, represented by a play within the play--Fanny's low farce, in which four people from different stations in life discover they've all been in prison for a fortnight.

Fanny's script doesn't jibe with the mannered parlor comedy of Shaw's framing sequences. Borrowing a page from Moliere and anticipating critical commentary on his own work, he has theater critic Trotter grouse that "all Shaw's characters are himself: mere puppets stuck up to spout Shaw."

Under Robert Scogin's direction, the always excellent ShawChicago ensemble delivers a concert reading that's far too good for the material. Still, seasoned actors like Tony Dobrowolski (as Fanny's father, the pompous Count O'Dowda) and Terence Gallagher (playing both the narrator and a droll butler) remind us that the worst Shaw has to offer still has value.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Give $35/month →  
  Give $10/month →  
  Give  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Add a comment