Through October 6
THE MILLIONAIRESS Shaw Festival/Court House Theatre
Ah! The joys of being rich when everyone else is poor and getting poorer.
No, we aren't talking about some massive contributor to a “super PAC,” but Epifania Ognisanti di Parerga.
She thinks of herself as not quite rich, since she only has 30-million pounds because her beloved father had blown 120-million before his death.
Since George Bernard Shaw set “The Millionairess” in the depths of the Great Depression when people begged for a dollar as Epifania (Nicole Underhay) gloried in being rich and in the social value of some trying to become even more rich.
The interesting thing about the rich woman is that she really has the ability to make money, not just to live off the vast pile she earned the old-fashioned way...inheritance.
In these days of mass starvation, Epifania moves in circles seemingly untouched by poverty or social attack.
She's married but husband Alastair Fitzlassenden (Martin Happer) wants to dump her and marry Polly Smith (Robin Evan Willis) with whom he's openly involved.
He wants to use lawyer Julius Sagamore (Kevin Bundy) for the divorce but he already works for Epifania.
This was a time when divorce was very difficult in England.
No matter how little husband and wife have in common, she won't give him up, just because someone else wants him.
Of course she has something going on the side, Adrian Blenderbland (a wonderful Steven Sutcliffe), who is as soft as Epifania is hard.
This being Britain, all of the players appear to know each other and ignore some of the more insane characteristics in dramatic lives.
Then, Epifania meets The Doctor (Kevin Hanchard) in a decrepit Thames River pub, the Pig and Whistle, a local with no redeeming value.
She explains to this dedicated Muslim physician her philosophy of life, involving the rich getting richer while he explains to her what he's trying to do to help those who can't pay for care.
The rich side of the conversation decides to marry him if he can take a pittance of her wealth and make a lot.
She simply doesn't understand him because he's not like her.
She decides while waiting to take the pub and turn it into the fancy restaurant, the Cardinal's Hat, and make it profitable.
She does that but the proprietor (Mark Uhre) explains to Alastair and Polly that meant everyone involved has been fired and abandoned in the process.
Epifania also decides to make a clothing sweatshop even more profitable even though owners Joe (Michael Ball) and his wife (Wendy Thatcher) say it won't work.
Epifania reminds me of some rich people I know.
It's not that they are evil or anything like that, although I know some other people who believe rich people are evil.
They just believe they are right and their money proves they are on the side of right and they can make the great decisions, brains clogged by the Opinion page of The Wall Street Journal.
It would be hard to be on the side of the rich after Nicole Underhay swaggers through this role.
While “The Millionairess” was written on the downside of Shaw's long career, he retains some ability to develop characters who epitomize what he's attacking.
Here, where Underhay and Hanchard are so wonderful, the story works.
They are backed with strong work from Sutcliffe, Uhre and Ball.
It's interesting that the Shaw returns to this play so often when it depends on rich customers to buy tickets and rich corporations and companies to subsidize productions.
Maybe there is some guilt somewhere.
With Blair Williams' strong direction and Cameron Porteous' minimalist sets, “The Millionairess” is a wonderful show worth seeing and wondering who in the audience with you has the money.
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