By George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Vance Smith
Associate Director Peter Robel
In a co-production by BoHo Theatre & Stage Left Theatre
At Theater Wit, Chicago
Spirited and authentic to the original script, this Pygmalion sizzles with wit and humor
The BoHo Theatre and Stage Left Theatre jointly present a most engaging and fully authentic production of Shaw’s 1913 work – Pygmalion. Shaw’s most popular play became the great musical My Fair Lady that used much of the original Shaw script including much of the dialogue in the songs. 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 BoHo and Stage Left for sticking to the initial ending.
Pygmalion is the classic tale of the wily Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle (the terrific Mouzam Makkar) as she is transformed into a “proper lady” by the arrogant and obnoxious dialect expert Henry Higgins ( Steve O’Connell in a tour de force performance). 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 pal Colonel Pickering (Sandy Elias) 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 Steve O’Connell energetic performance renders Higgins as a more fully realized character who never really give off sincere hints of a romantic spark toward Eliza. We see Higgins also as in fear of his tough mother here played with caustic wit by Lisa Herceg . Add a most impressive charismatic Mr. Doolitle played with gusto by Mark Pracht and Pygmalion does justice to the classic Shaw work.
The various dialects, especially in the early scenes (credit dialect coach Lindsay Bartlett) were excellent and quite authentic. Mouzam Makkar’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. You’d be hard pressed to see a finer non-Equity cast than the one BoHo and Stage Left have mounted for Pygmalion. This is a fast-paced and funny play that will have you rediscovering the Pygmalion myth. Having Higgins’ whistling melodies from My Fair Lady was a nice touch. Bo Ho and Stage Left once more prove why they are two of the finest non-Equity theatre troupes in Chicago.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 10, 2013
For more info check the Pygmalion page at theatreinchicago.com
At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, call 773-975-8150, www,bohotheatre.com or www.stagelefttheatre.com, tickets $25, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through February 10, 2013