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'You Never Can Tell' Is Sturdier Than The Set

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‘You Never Can Tell' Is Sturdier Then The Set

Bv Norman Gibson


Drama Review

The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre production of George Bernard Shaw's “You Never Can Tell” is sturdier than some of its scenery proved to be Opening night in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater.

Actress Marie Gilson, who plays the housekeeper in the Shaw comedy, missed having a doorway fall on her in the first act when a quick-thinking member of the backstage crew grabbed it as it fell and anchored it in place.

William L. Schiefer’s sets for the other two acts called attention to themselves in another way. They got applause from the audience for their, eye-tingling sumptuousness.

WHEN THE CURTAIN opens for the acts, a little study reveals that Schiefer’s designs use simple lines and bold colors to achieve the elegance called for by the Shaw script on a 19th century liberated woman, her prank-prone children and dyspeptic husband.

Unlike most of today's film-imbued stage directors, Charles Sutherland is not afraid to have the curtain come down between acts, so the audience is deprived of watching a lot of people in black suits push around props, furniture and scenery.

A lot of what Shaw said 75 years ago about women wanting to desire, aspire and achieve without being held down is still a burning issue today: but Sutherland also avoids making the piece sound more current by inflections or interpretation.

INSTEAD, HE lets the curtain come down where it did in the days the comedy was conceived, providing pauses instead of giving in to the current everything-must-be-kept-flowing mania.

Some of the actors have broad forms of acting, verging on acting styles which have not been seen since the end of World War I. They strike poses, saw the air with their arms and hands...everything but roll their Rs.  And because they do it so well, they get away with it.

Sandra Hudson is not so much this type of actress. But her Margaret Clandon is firmly under her control and Hudson successfully makes her into something more than some Shavian hurrah for the liberated woman.

SHE MAINTAINS the air of mystery as to why the mother of three is secretive about who the father of the children is until the moment it is divulged by the script and otherwise creates a woman of the world and a private individual in one human package that’s complex but still a Shavian symbol. ,

John McCarthy creates a self-effacing, handsome and suitable dentist.

The darlings of the piece, though, have to be Laura Baler as Dolly Clandon and Scott Hammonds as her brother Philip. They play the ultimate imps, always trying to sneak up on somebody and undo them. And they get away with it, for Shaw never calls them to task. Hammonds and Baler are the ultimate in what they are called on to do.

ANOTHER ULTIMATE is Alex Miller, the crusty stranger who troops into the Clandon lodging on the coast of England's Devon. Miller plays the role of Fergus Crampton like an irritable dog that growls a lot and nobody's sure whether he'd really rather rip off a leg.

At the same time, Jim Piper's recurrent frowning is something of a puzzle, for the family lawyer who’s named Finch M’Comas is family adviser who has been around but has no particular cause to be acerbic.

Shaw's waiter is more than a device to clear the tables, and Marty Smith is so thoroughly convincing in the part, you wish you could find his polite, attentive, eager Walter Boon in real restaurants.

MICHAEL MORRISSEY is the young waiter and Steve Stannard is the cook. Peter Greenquist appears as the false-nose wearing Walter Bohun in a cast that is, in short, an excellent match for the Shaw comedy.

Sheridan Hunt’s costumes elegantly decorate the women in the bustles of the period and even some of the men glow brilliantly.

Further performances are at 8 p.m. today through Saturday.