Mad Cow Theater
By George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Tony Simotes
Staring Jaci Pula, Courtney Bahr, Richard Bey, and Duncan Bahr
I want to live in an English county house complete with alcoholic servants, a pompous war hero who cheats at billiard, and a passel of flirty women more excited by horses than their tedious arranged marriages. Toss in some anarchists and witty Shaw grade dinner party and I’m there. Captain Shotover (Bey) fought it he opium wars or some other obscure military campaign, and now he’s retired to his dysfunctional nautically themed estate. Wilting Ellie Dunn (Pula) believes she has an invitation, but no one will bring in her luggage or acknowledge her existence. After a few hours of neglect, the house keeper, cook, and foot person Nurse Guinness (Shami McCormick) discovers her in the drawing room. Should she stay or should she go? Thankfully she stays to introduce us to the other house guests from hell.
There are some long speeches here; when Shaw get up on his soap box he pulls up the ladder up behind him lest someone take his bully pulpit. But the charactures of the WW1 moneyed set make up for the lectures with their posing, infighting and heavy drinking. Our hostess is the aging flapper Hesione Hushabye (Courtney Bahr). Her name sake started the Trojan war, but here she juggles the shallow egos of the house guests, trying to start her own conflagrations. The sycophantic Mr. Dunn drops by to help marry off his daughter, and she accidently picks the dashing but already married Hector Hushabye (Duncan Bahr). You’ll work to pay attention to the entanglements, and there’s more Marx Brothers comedy here than Chekhovian ennui. And all that provides an entertaining few hours.
Today the wealthy fear kidnapping and tabloid, back then German bombs posed the real risk. The dialog is snappy if self-serving, and we even get a visit by an honest burglar (Russ Trahan) who refuses to turn himself in to the police unless they bribe him. Is there a point buried under this fast paced and still witty commentary? Certainly the wealthy are always fun to poke with sharp sticks, and their pointless idleness and financial idolatry still infest the world, as it always will. But on this stage the social commentary is played for plentiful laughs, and while Shaw can be quite talky, here he lets the cast do the lifting and minimizes the lecture. Best of all, there’s no test afterwards unless you want to argue politics on the ride home. Fast, funny, and well executed, here’s a seldom seen script executed with great timing by the Mad Cow People’s Revolutionary Collective.