Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Arts Club's 500th production brings something new

The Philanderer, by George Bernard Shaw, was written and first produced a hundred twenty years ago. As witnessed in the recent Arts Club production at the Stanley, it has weathered well.

The director, Rachel Ditor, did something remarkable. She used Shaw's original final act, which was replaced in the original and all earlier productions by a re-written Act Three that was less provocative.

The scandalous bits seem fairly tame to us today. Yet the play has survived remarkably well. It still has relevance and poignancy, along with the laughs. As the director suggests, it is an invitation to consider how the domestic affairs of society have changed and how they have not.

In this final scene, the doctor's office seems a singularly suitable place to dissect the marriage between the egotistical and driven Dr. Paramore (Scott Bellis) and the statuesque, capricious and confused Sylvia (Amber Lewis).

The final scene throws into relief the social mores that have caused it originally to take place and ultimately to fail. A hundred twenty years of history has made less difference than we may expect.

Bernard Cuffling was brilliant as usual, as was Tom Scholte, the casual, logical, cool-headed philanderer his very self. This was the 500th production launched by the Arts Club, and it was a great one.

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