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Theatre Review by Howard Miller - October 25, 2022

Avanthika Srinivasan, Avery Whitted, David Ryan Smith,
and R.J. Foster

Photo by Carol Rosegg
The foolishness and insecurity of men is front and center in the Gingold Theatrical Group's adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's drawing room comedy, Candida, opening tonight at Theatre Row. If you are seeking an evening of unadulterated Shavian wit, you'll have to look elsewhere, but if you like your Shaw served up with a strong dose of rollicking good fun, you've come to the right place.

The plot of Candida revolves around a seeming competition for the heart of the title character (played here with a great sense of equanimity and twinkle-eyed amusement by Avanthika Srinivasan). The rivals for her heart are her husband, the affable if overworked and distracted Rev. James Morell (R. J. Foster); and a young, swooning poet named Eugene Marchbanks (Avery Whitted, a very funny physical comedian), who has attached himself to her like a reverential barnacle.

Gingold's artistic director David Staller has relocated the play from late Victorian London to New York during the Roaring Twenties. Lest we miss the switch in locale, the revised opening scene is full of references to Hell's Kitchen, Greenwich Village, and the Lower East Side. The set design by Lindsay Genevieve Fuori, the main living space in the Morells' home in Harlem, is a marvelous collection of every manner of artwork, bric-a-brac, and random displays of tchotchkes that is a hoot to feast your eyes on while waiting for the play to begin. For some unexplained reason, the production is set in 1929, perhaps an oblique reference to the looming Great Depression, never addressed but which undoubtedly will soon come crashing down on the title character's blowhard capitalist father.

Bringing in Candida's father, Mr. Burgess (David Ryan Smith), allows for Shaw to pit his strong socialist views and lifelong battle for social justice against his disdain for profit-obsessed capitalism. Certainly some of that debate occurs in this production as Burgess and his son-in-law lock horns, but the emphasis is decidedly on the domestic battle between Morell and Marchbanks, the erstwhile savior who wants to "rescue" Candida from a life of being a mere housewife.

It is a lot of fun to watch the two go at it and to see Morell's cool confidence slowly melting away until the final scene when the pair demand that Candida choose between them, as if they ever had any say in the matter. Joining the others and contributing quite nicely to the general merriment are Peter Romano as Morell's curate Lexy, and Amber Reauchean Williams as his clerk Prossy, who has a crush on Morell and who has her own terrific moment of tipsy silliness. Throughout, the production plays up the comedic aspects of the play to a frothy romp and delivers an evening of joyful theatergoing.

Through November 19, 2022
Gingold Theatrical Group
Theatre Row, Theatre Two
410 West 42nd Street, New York NY
Tickets online and current performance schedule: