MUST SEEREVIEWSTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

Pygmalion – Remy Bumppo think theatre

By George Bernard Shaw.

Directed by Shawn Douglas.

Produced by Remy Bumppo think theatre.

At the Greenhouse Theatre, Chicago.

Wickedly delightful social comedy of manners focuses on the flower girl.

Pygmalion. Shaw’s most popular  play was written in 1912 and first performed in 1914. It became the great musical My Fair Lady in the 1950’s that used much of the original Shaw script including much of the dialogue in the song lyrics.  Pygmalion, in its initial script, had a different ending that many producers and Shaw himself changed several times. This production used Shaw’s original ending which may be a surprise to My Fair Lady and fans of the 1930’s film of Pygmalion. Kudos to Remy Bumppo for sticking to the initial ending. They did use a framing device that has an older Eliza visiting Higgins’ Whipple Street flat after his death in the lat 1940’s. This didn’t effect Shaw’s ambiguous ending.


Pygmalion is the classic tale of the wily Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle (the winning Kelsey Brennan) as she is transformed into a “proper lady” by the arrogant and obnoxious dialect expert Henry Higgins ( Nick Sandy in a venerable yet terrific turn). Motivated by a bet, Higgins takes Eliza from the street and teaches her proper English, proper gentility and proper elements of Edwardian manners. Higgins and his friend Colonel Pickering (Peter A. Davis) see Eliza more as an experiment than a person with feeling and dreams of her own.


This work contains  stinging wit and biting social commentary on class, manners, and the place of women in English society in pre-World War I Edwardian British society. We see Higgins as a younger  more vulnerable and flamboyant as Nick Sandys energetic performance renders Higgins as a more fully realized character who never really gives off sincere hints of a romantic spark toward Eliza.  We see Higgins in awe of his tough mother here played with caustic wit by Annabel  Armour. Add a most impressive witty rascal Alfred P. Doolitle played with charisma by David Darlow and Pygmalion becomes an impressive play.


The various dialects, especially in the early scenes (credit dialect coach Eva Brenerman) were excellent and authentic. Kelsey Brennan’s rich articulation from street utterances to proper speech was most effective. Her strong-willed Eliza begged for acceptance and to be treated as a person rather than an experiment. She fights Higgins to the end.

In Pygmalion, we see the arrogance toward women played out in society that still resonates today as misogynistic treatment by Higgins that still can be found. The terrific cast is most respectful to the material as each player skillfully presents their characters. Remy Bumppo’s cast was respectful to the classic work they were producing.  This is a fast-paced and funny play that will have you rediscovering the Pygmalion myth.  It dramatizes, with sharp wit and humor that found the different classes in conflict as women’s role in society was emerging from Victorian values. This is one of the best play mounted on a chicago stage this year!

Highly Recommended.

Tom Williams.

Jeff Recommended.

At the Greenhouse Theatre, 2257 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL call 773-404-7336, tickets $42.50 – $52.50, Thursday thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sunday t 2:30 pm (note several holiday matinees – see the site), running time 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission..