Monomoy's 'Candida' Mixes Laughs With Social Commentary

By: Joan Aucoin

Topics: Local Theater

Gavin McNicholl, Arlene Bozich and John Noble Barrack in “Candida.” JESUS LOPEZ PHOTO  

Feminists unite! George Bernard Shaw, the Nobel Prize-winning playwright, heard your voices before your time had come. Is it a matter between two men to debate the passions of romantic love versus the complacency of a dignified marital relationship? Or might the woman in question learn to speak for herself? Is it her right to choose her own destiny?

"Candida" at the Monomoy Theater formalizes the discussion of opposing points of view on love, marriage, fidelity, poetry, religion, politics, and fair wages for the working class in Shaw's synergistic comedy, set in the East Quarter of London in 1902. An ardent champion of economic and social justice, Shaw's wit and wisdom reveals without question that women rule, succinctly proven in two acts and one intermission under Mary O'Brady's sportive direction.

Arlene Bozich is splendid in the title role of the charismatic wife of a socially progressive but pompous, middle-aged man of the cloth, the Rev. James Mavor Morell. Candida has been away from home for three weeks but returns with a new friend. She is wife, mother, sister, an all-in-one gal, whose flaming red hair crowns her intellectual curiosity.

Candida candidly associates with a much younger, love-starved poet, Eugene Marchbanks. Eugene becomes her fireside chum whose love of books and nature sufficed until he met the minister's wife. A ring of light casts an aurora over the teen poet and his 30-year-old heartthrob. Gavin McNicholl is an outstanding comedic actor playing

the apprehensive challenger for Candida's heart who must force the issue into the light. McNicholl shines in every scene he appears.

John Noble Barrack's moralist, windbag parson Morell is consumed with building a kingdom of heaven on earth in speaking engagements so numerous that even his secretary works overtime. Laura Axelrod's Miss Garnett exhibits fiery contempt as the overly protective scheduler.

Candida's father Mr. Burgess saunters across the stage as a shameless scoundrel factory owner. Equity guest actor Terry Caza plays the capitalist aiming for the county contracts with smashing, superior, self-righteous surety. Daniel Owens offers friendship to all as Rev. Mill in several office and parlor entrances, a very pleasant man.

Matthew S. Crane's Victorian set centers on a side-paneled flickering fireplace creating warmth for the enamored characters. Mauricyo Navarro's period costumes were notably designed as one of a kind originals.

Liberals and conservatives will hear discussions about "silly, old fatheads, sensible superiority, self-sufficiency, poor souls craving reality and freedom, and a businessman who harbors disdain for his own working men and women." Shaw's words written in 1895. Shaw hit all of this summer's contemporary political talking points.