Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
Jonathon Moscone directs what is likely to be the highlight of the 38th Season of California Shakespeare: CANDIDA.
This is George Bernard Shaw at his ironic best, using wit to scrutinize and dissect the contractual symbiosis and the psychological underpinnings of what is ostensibly a sound marriage; in this case the union of a seemingly morally superior clergyman and a charismatic woman of stunning pulchritude and superior wit and intelligence.
The complacent dynamics of the marriage are brought into focus by a wild romantic young poet who probes and tests the marriage mucilage.
Julie Eccles puts forth a dazzling performance in the title role, showing restrained, but sustained, strength as a woman whose husband begins to weaken under the strain of introspection and whose unabashed admirer threatens to come unraveled due to hopeless love and his own covetousness.
The superior strength of Candida as a woman is what places this play is the realm of the modern.
Anthony Fusco (absolutely no relation to Rolf, Al, Lance or Lars) as the Reverend James Morell, makes an ever so subtle transition: ratcheting from the over-confident husband who smugly senses his entitlement to a woman of Candida’s expansive, larger than life dimensions, to a man near panic, not knowing how he can to be the recipient of Candida’s affection and splendor.
Nick Gabriel is marvelous as the effete and overweening Eugne Marchbanks: the peer poet of leisure who tries to snake Candida from the Reverend Morell.
A vibrant set designed by Annie Smart brings a splash of color to the parched sun burnished Bruns Amphitheatre and its environs.
Conspicuously tasteful and well-conceived costuming by Anna Oliver establishes time, setting and class consciousness.
And for an addition measure of class consciousness and humor there is Mister Burgess, Candida’s father, the shrew and insensitive capitalist played to the comic hilt by the riotous Jarion Monroe.
The show is a delightfully intelligent comedy that holds up a lens or mirror to the delicately balanced dynamic that sustains even a successful marriage.
For a rapturous evening under the stars and Klieg lights, call the Cal Shakes Box Office at 510.548.9666 or go to online ticketing at www.clshakes.org.