In my opinion, you either love Bernard Shaw or you hate him. I’ll admit that I usually fall into the latter category. However, I think all would agree that Pygmalion is the easiest of his shows to understand and emotionally find a connection with. It draws us in to the differing worlds of class and sex. Although this play is set in 1912, these themes ring true even in 2017. Alexander Showcase Theatre is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary of exemplary community theatre and chose Shaw’s most accessible play to showcase their company’s talents.
Vincenzo Sestito’s direction was precise. He led his actors to the truth of Shaw’s material, all the while keeping the pace up and the humour alive in terms of the contrast between the lower and upper class. I’ve always found that Vinnie shines as a director with intimate scenes; whether humorous, romantic or heated. If it involves 2-4 actors putting all their feelings out there, he’s the man for the job. He is able to tap into the actor’s deepest emotions and find ways to connect them to the character they are playing. This is truly evident in the final scene between Eliza and Higgins.
The role of Eliza Doolittle is infamous. First portrayed by Mrs. Patrick Campbell on the West End, Wendy Hiller in the film, Audrey Hepburn in the musical film (My Fair Lady) and then Julie Andrews on Broadway (My Fair Lady). So many actress have delved into the complex , hysterical and brooding character of Eliza and tonight Ms. Nina Mason can add herself to that list. Nina is a dear friend of mine and as a friend who has watched her in countless shows, both musicals and plays, I can say that she is always, for lack of a better word, undervalued. Here is a girl with tremendous acting abilities, a beautiful singing voice and a person who is just about the most lovely lady you will ever meet. Tonight I got to watch her take on the first leading role I have ever seen her in and I have NO doubt that many more will follow in her future. Nina can move delicately into the heart of a character and transform herself. She is nurturing by nature, and you see her use that quality in the roles she plays. Eliza is no exception. She requires that nurturing, love, and dedication to transform from the Cockney flower girl to the exquisite proper lady at Buckingham Palace. Shaw’s script moves fast and so to share that transformation with the audience is quite the task, and one that Nina does effortlessly. She’s a true professional and makes this production what it truly is; an enlightening slice of theatre.
I’ve written about Patrick Brown before. He’s one of those people who in every area of his life does his utmost to excel. Playing the commanding and domineering role of Professor Henry Higgins is no exception. He presence was strong and unappealing at times. He was harsh, cruel and complex. And just when you want to hate him, he was able to show a painfully beautiful side of the professor that brought the audience in and made him, finally, human.
ANOTHER’S NOTION WITH ERIN MOUCHIAN
It was a pleasure to be in the audience for this beautiful show. I was so impressed with the way all of the actors delivered Shaw’s exquisite script and I found myself laughing and guffawing out loud numerous times in Act One. It was, however, the scene between Higgins (Patrick Brown) and Eliza (Nina Mason) in Act Two that resonated in my heart. The timing, chemistry and physicality of these two performers captured the sheer torture of their characters’ complicated and ultimately impossible relationship. Their natural delivery and nuance was thoughtful and sensitive and left me frustrated and breathless in the best way possible! Do yourself a favour and go see this show.
Additional shout- outs:
1. To Peter Thorman for a beautifully built set and to Beth Roher for stunning set dressings and intricate painting.
2. To Kathleen Andres for her saucy and aristocratic portrayal of Mrs. Eynsford-Hill.
3. To Brenda Massey-Beauregard for her persistent and professional portrayal of Mrs. Pearce.
Be sure to head downtown to the Alumnae Theatre to see Alexander Showcase Theatre’s production of Pygmalion. It runs November 23-December 3 and tickets are available at www.alexandershowcasetheatre.com. Congratulations to all invovled in this beautiful production!
Photography by Paul Brown