Monday, February 11, 2013

Review of Widowers' Houses at ShawChicago

Once upon a time I went to a reading and it was called Widowers' Houses, and it was by George Bernard Shaw. It was about a man named Harry Trench(Jack Dwyer) who fell in love with a woman named Blanche (Jhenai Mootz) and the problem is that Blanche cares a lot about money but he doesn't have that much money. Her money comes from her father (Mark Richard) and Trench doesn't want to take money from her father because the father is not a very good landlord. Trench's money comes from her father as well, but he doesn't know that. This play is about how he doesn't know who he really is. Blanche thinks that he cares so much about where his money comes from but she just thinks that. He kind of does, but he also kind of doesn't.

Sartorius, Blanche's father, is landlord to poor people and he doesn't treat them very well. He doesn't really care about them, that poor people also have feelings. His houses are not very nice and he doesn't want to fix them up because he thinks rich people should live in fantastic and beautiful houses, and middle class people should live in nice houses, and poor people should live in not very nice houses at all. And there is a man that is in his service named Lickcheese (Jack Hickey). I know that is a pretty funny name, but he is one of the most sad characters in this play. He has a bunch of children to take care of and when Sartorious kicks him out his children are hungry and he doesn't know what to do. Then Lickcheese decides to become another version of Sartorious, kind of.

Annie the parlor maid (Kathy Logelin) really loves Blanche but she gets treated terribly by her. You might ask, "Why is Shaw showing you Blanche being so terrible to Annie the parlor maid?" It doesn't make you like Blanche very much. But Trench also doesn't treat poor people very nicely because he is not very rich himself and he doesn't want to feel poor. That's why I think Blanche and Harry Trench are a good match. You don't exactly like either one of the main characters. You don't exactly like anyone in the show because they are all kind of horrible except for Annie the parlor maid. I think that is a very interesting choice Shaw made to make make the protagonists also kind of like the villains. Shaw is interested not in having all the people who come to see the show thinking that all his characters are really really nice but just in being interested in the characters. He is trying to point out a problem: he is trying to point out that people should not treat people of a lower class differently. Well, let me put it this way: "All people are created equal." He is not trying to say "treat your parlor maid like a piece of dirt". He is trying to say "don't treat your parlor maid like this if you have one." He doesn't think you should have parlor maids anyway; he thinks you should be independent.

This paragraph is all about Cockane (Gary Alexander) and why George Bernard Shaw put him in there. This character is a kind of nice character but also a kind of horribly mean character. He is nice because he tries to help his friend and he is mean because his friend happens to be a not very nice person. And he also is always talking about tact. Shaw is kind of saying that tact is not a very good thing because if you say something nice about something terrible that somebody is doing, using tact will not stop that. Shaw thinks they should not hide what they really think because then if they do the person that is doing the bad thing will not stop because they will think that you think that is a good idea. And then they will just keep on doing it.

I thought that the scene where Harry Trench and Blanche got back together was very interesting because the reason that they got back together was kind of not described. You can think of a reason why they got back together, but here is my hypothesis. My hypothesis is that for some reason Blanche forgave him because she realized, when she saw the blue book, that her father was a terrible person and that he was giving poor people terrible places to live. I have one other hypothesis. My hypothesis is that they got back together because she remembered how much they used to love each other. And she kind of missed him. So then they got back together.

People who would like this show are people who like interesting endings, funny names like Lickcheese, and evil love. Just before you go to the show remember it is a staged reading. That means that you should not expect amazing costumes that are good for the story and the set is just basically screens and folding chairs and music stands. From a reading you can still learn about the language and the relationships of the characters.

Photos: Lila M. Stromer Photography

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