Saturday, July 28, 2012

"Candida" from Bakerloo Theatre Project

"Candida" by George Bernard Shaw is a love triangle dramady set between a Socialist preacher, his upstanding wife Candida and a young poet who thinks he has what Candida truly needs to be happy.

Bakerloo is a new theatre company in town. Recently transplanted from NYC, the company seeks to bring young artists (of all types) from across the country to re-interpret classic works. Their inaugural season consists of "Henry V" and "Candida" and is currently being housed at Future Tenant. They offer free tickets to any middle-school or high school students.

There is a great sense of ensemble and comic timing in the cast. The genius of the performers comes acorss in the little intricacies and movements that everyone involves in whether they are the focus of the scene or not.

In particular, Parag S. Gohel as the young poet with a nervous conidition but a love-lorn heart, Eugene Marchbanks. It is wonderful to see an actor inhabit the language, emotions and physical body of a character. Gohel's Eugene is a sweating, somewhat blubbering near-adolescent who somehow manages to completely threaten and disturb Candida's husband (played by Jake Staley...who looks a dead-ringer for a reincarnated Anton Chekov). And, what's more, the audience believes this physically weak specimen when he does it.

Similarly, Lauren Diesch , provides a precise portrayal as the put-upon secretary Proserphine Garnett.  The character is professional and pointed in her language and restrained in her actions and Diesch succeeds in giving the character a whole body as well as rich inner fantasy life we know exists but the character never gives voice to.

The titular role, played by Brittany Proia, is either fully revealed to us or fully realised in the play's final scene, but for the most part Candida herself seems to walk on a cloud. Whether this is because she has two men constantly referring to her as "angel" or because Candida is trying to purposefully stay above it all is up for debate, but it might do well for her to come down and let herself be seduced a bit.

The play on the whole takes awhile to get rolling, but builds to an intimate, honest exploration of marriage, need and purpose in life. Although maybe it is that the world of the play has a little trouble finding itself. The opening moments involve characters reading Shaw's detailed stage directions from a prompt book about other characters, a convention that disappears and the play proceeds as typical plays do. And two randomly choreographed scene changes to top 40 hits are amusing but seems misplaced and a bit distracting (if not obvious).

However, the play moves. The two-hour show glides by with lots of laughs and, if the worst criticism involves the questioning of a dance sequence with overcoats, then Bakerloo is on a great start to asserting themselves in the Pittsburgh community.

"Candida" closes tonight 7/28/2012, but tickets for Bakerloo's "Henry V" can be purchased here:

- The Eponymous Theatre Critic has been on a government-induced hiatus. It seems there is a limit on how many times one can use the word "avocado" before having to pay the piper...  

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