Through October 13
GETTING MARRIED Royal George Theatre/Shaw Festival
George Bernard Shaw’s “Getting Married” is three things, long, late night bar conversations between men and women, a tale of the virtue of the working classes and an endless screed of the need for reform of Britain’s marriage laws.
More than a century after the play survived Britain’s bizarre stage censorship, marriage is still an issue.
Dad is marrying off his last daughter and the family is assembling, as the wedding planner struggles to make sure everything goes well.
Of course, the happy couple, Edith Bridgenorth (Katherine Gauthier) and Cecil Sykes (Cameron Grant), knows more about everything than their elders and they are struggling to decide why they should link up under a prior generation’s rules.
The lessons are not good.
The Bridgenorths are not a completely happy family and they are dealing with the strange rules of the society of the day, just barely past the death of Queen Victoria and the social rules hadn’t changed.
Only the Great War looming in the future would change much of the social rules and kill off many of those who most benefitted from the old ways.
High taxes and the deaths of the servant class on the Western Front change things.
There are signs of those changes, like the wedding planner, greengrocer William Collins (Damien Atkins), who is also an alderman.
This is the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea, still a major force in the social structure of London (along with having a great soccer team today), presided over by the bishop, not dramatically coincidentally Alfred Bridgenorth (Graeme Somerville), father of the bride.
When Collins needs help and advice, the calls on the mayoress, Mrs. George Collins (Marla McLean), his sexually active sister-in-law.
Few Shaw plays are as dedicated to endless flowing words as “Married” and director Tanja Jacobs and set designer Shannon Lea Doyle have moved the entire show into one room, probably the bishop’s palace kitchen, although right off a little patch of garden.
The characters are focused in a very small area surrounding the giant service tables.
The central couple are flanked by the dissolving marriage of Reginald Bridgenorth (Steven Sutcliffe) and Leo Bridgenorth (Monice Peter) and the marriage which will never take place between General “Boxer” Bridgenorth (Martin Happer) and Lesbia Grantham (Claire Jullien).
She won’t marry in the social climate of the day, no matter how many times Boxer asks.
The preparations for the wedding and the reception are moving along smoothly, until Edith and Cecil arrive with a pamphlet of all the things wrong with marriage and decide they won’t.
They confront the older Bridgenorths and are told what’s in the pamphlet is true, about all of the bad things society imposes on marriage.
That switches events to the mayoress and Reg, two people looking at themselves, one happy and one not.
Does “Getting Married” wind up with happy endings?
But, it certainly gave Shaw a platform to attack marriage, without ever mentioning his own tangled marriage and personal life.
He often used the stage to attack social problems, not always to public approval.
Here, he has a strong platoon of Shaw Festival performers to tell the tale, Atkins, Somerville, Happer, Andrew Lawrie’s Reverend Oliver Cromwell Soames, Jullien and Ben Sanders’ St. John Hotchkiss.
It’s all family, in its time.
Think about family events you have attended or family weddings and remember the high points and the low points and what you learned from both.
Think about good marriage and bad marriages and conversations about: How did they ever get together?
“Getting Married” wouldn’t be hurt with some additional judicious editing, but it’s worth seeing.
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