DramaNew YorkReview

Pygmalion –Theatre 54, New York

Writer: George Bernard Shaw

Director: Anthony D. Pound

Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers

George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion is a play that revels in the glory of its language. Shaw’s prowess with the musicality of the written word alone is transcendent and demands exacting attention and respect. Coupled with the specificity of the qualities of dialect at hand from character to character, this language is the crux of Pygmalion. In Always Love Lucy Theatre’s production of Shaw’s work, the language is all but lost behind a loosely applied concept and myriad shortcomings in the execution of the production itself.

Taking a turn on gender roles and addressing a hot political issue of the moment, this Pygmalion touts itself as a “bold new transgender themed production.” Eliza decides to become Elijah, not for any reasons of gender identity that one can discern, but because men earn more respect than women. For the remainder of the piece, Eliza’s name is changed and feminine pronouns are replaced with masculine ones, and Saima Huq as Eliza/Elijah dons a short wig and a suit. However, the deeply tangled definitions and politics that would accompany such a change are never addressed, as the script remains unaltered save Elijah’s name and pronouns. One wonders what the purpose of this choice was, as it feels more like a gender-swapped casting of Shakespeare à la the late 1990s than anything new or incisive. There is so much to be mined by a flower girl becoming a duke that is simply lost.

Additionally, the production in and of itself falls flat. The dulcet tones of Shaw’s language are rushed by most of the cast, though Christopher Romero Wilson as Higgins and David Burfoot as Pickering are notable exceptions and are laser-clear in each word they utter. For a play that focuses so heavily on speech and the power of language as it relates to class, confidence, and gender, there seems to be little attention paid to dialect, with inconsistencies throughout. As a whole, the play lacks a specificity of intent that leads to long pauses that haven’t quite been earned. Shaw, even in his darkest moments, writes plays that are whip-quick and unrelenting in the power and beauty of their language. It is unfortunate that this production misses the mark in carrying that energy and supporting its own concept.

Runs until 8 May 2016


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The American team is under the editorship of Adrienne Sowers. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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