CalShakes embellishes You Never Can Tell with song and farce.

(L to R) Danny Scheie as Walter, Elizabeth Carter as Mrs. Clandon, and Michael Torres as Fergus Crampton in California Shakespeare Theater's production of Shaw's YOU NEVER CAN TELL, directed by Lisa Peterson; photo by Kevin Berne.

(L to R) Danny Scheie as Walter, Elizabeth Carter as Mrs. Clandon, and Michael Torres as Fergus Crampton in California Shakespeare Theater’s production of Shaw’s YOU NEVER CAN TELL, directed by Lisa Peterson; photo by Kevin Berne.

You Never Can Tell: Comedy by George Bernard Shaw. Bruns Amphitheater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, Orinda, CA (just off Highway 24 at the California Shakespeare Theater Way/Wilder Rd. exit, one mile east of the Caldecott Tunnel.) (510) 548-9666. www.calshakes.org. August10 – September 4, 2016.

CalShakes embellishes You Never Can Tell with song and farce.

There are reasons George Bernard Shaw’s plays are at times avoided by audiences. Three reasons include the facts that they are often long, verbose and didactic. Those three attributes apply to the text of You Never Can Tell even though they were published as one of his “Plays Pleasant”. However, the CalShakes production under the helm of Shaw aficionado Lisa Peterson races along virtually compressing the two hour and 30 minute evening into Alfred North Whitehead’s concept of relative time without detracting from the feminist philosophy.

To do this she has transported the play to a California Seaside town, similar to Santa Cruz, but maintained the 1890s sensibilities including the costuming.  The play is written four acts with three scene changes that could be cumbersome. To overcome that possibility CalShakes artistic crew has elected to have an open central playing area with mockups of a Ferris wheel stage right, a drawing of a Victorian Hotel stage left and roller coaster behind center stage and having cast members recite description of the scene changes including singing songs such as “By the Sea.”

That roller coaster is reflective of the roller coaster ride created by this production without diluting Shaw’s take on women’s rights, love, marriage and parenthood. His major protagonist is Mrs. Clandon (Elizabeth Carter) mother to 21 year old Gloria (Sabina Zuniga Varela) and not yet 18 years old twins Dolly (Khalia Davis) and Phillip (Lance Gardner).  Gloria has been indoctrinated into the mold of the modern woman and Shaw has given her some of the best lines expressing his philosophy. The twins are free-spirited and disruptive.

Mrs. Clandon and her brood are returning to the USA after running away with the children from an abusive husband 18 years ago to Caracas. As bad luck would have it her rich husband lives in the town, has changed his name to Fergus Crampton (Michael Torres) and is a tough landlord to the young impecunious dentist Dr. Valentine (Matthew Baldiga) who is smitten by Gloria. Through a highly improbable set of circumstances without the children knowing that Crampton is their father, each end up together for lunch at the local hotel. This is where we meet the “perfect waiter” named Walter played by versatile scene stealer Danny Scheie who gives enviable variety to the line “You can never tell”.

Two other major characters appear to straighten all the legal entanglements.  They are the Clandon’s solicitor Finch McComas (Anthony Fusco) and Bohun (Liam Vincent) an erudite judge and son to Walter.

Most of the acting is extremely broad befitting director Peterson’s tight pacing with balanced encounters between those in conflict. Baldiga and Zuniga Varela are perfectly matched as the conflicted potential lovers although Shaw overextends one of the major scenes. The animosity with nuances between Mrs. Clandon and husband Crampton are projected perfectly by Carter and Torres. The excessive free spirit of the twins becomes annoying as Gardner and Davis tend to emote. Anthony Fusco beautifully underplays the role of Finch with excellent contrast to Liam Vincent’s domination of the final scene. It is Danny Scheie with his distinctive voice, gay demeanor and perfect timing that adds zip to the evening and his performance alone is enough to make this a recommended production.

CAST: Mr. (or Dr.) Valentine, the dentist, Matthew Baldiga; Gloria Clandon, Sabina Zuniga Varela; The “perfect waiter” Walter Boon, Danny Scheie; Dolly Clandon, Khalia Davis; Philip Clandon, Lance Gardner; Mrs. Clandon, the mother, Elizabeth Carter; Mr. Fergus Crampton, the landlord and father, Lance Gardne; Mr. Finch McComas, a solicitor, Anthony Fusco; Bohun, a Judge, another waiter & The Parlor-maid, Liam Vincent

CREATIVE TEAM: Director, Lisa Peterson; Set designer, Eric Flatmo; Costume designer, Melissa Torchia; Lighting designer York Kennedy; Sound designer James Paul Prendergast.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworlim2.com.

(L to R) Danny Scheie as Walter, Elizabeth Carter as Mrs. Clandon, and Michael Torres as Fergus Crampton in California Shakespeare Theater’s production of Shaw’s YOU NEVER CAN TELL, directed by Lisa Peterson; photo by Kevin Berne.