Monday, April 19, 2010

Theater Review: Candida at Irish Repertory Theatre

Photo of Brian Murray and Melissa Errico in Candida. Performances
through April 25 at Irish Repertory Theatre. (Photo by Carol Rosegg)

An Oft-Produced Play Where Not Much Happens
By Lauren Yarger
George Bernard Shaw’s oft-produced tale of a preacher’s wife asked to choose between the husband who takes her for granted and a younger man who woos her with poetry and passion gets its latest staging Off-Broadway in a production designed and directed by Tony Walton.

Candida, the 1894 work with its turn-of-the-century dialogue and politics doesn’t offer a whole lot of action in its two hours and 10 minutes, but at least the play by Irish-born Shaw is in a fitting home at Irish Repertory Theatre.

In it, Eugene Marchbanks (Sam Underwood) falls in love with the title character Candida (Melissa Errico), causing her husband, the Rev, James Morrell (Claran O’Reilly) to wonder whether his wife might prefer the shy, poetic youth to him. He contrives to leave Eugene and Candida alone at their London home while he goes off to one of his frequent speaking engagements where his social/religious views are much in demand. Attending the speech and filling out the rest of the cast are Morrell’s saucy typist, Prosperine Garnet (Xanthe Elbrick), who secretly loves her employer, Morrell’s father-in-law, Burgess (Brian Murray), who thinks everyone in the household is mad, and the Rev. Alexander Mill (Josh Grisetti), Morell’s creepy curate.

Will Eugene and Candida take advantage of being left alone to allow their feelings to blossom? Will Candida suprise them both when they force her to choose between them? Not likely. The plot is rather contrived, really. Eugene is supposed to be shy, for example, but apparently has no problem making inappropriate advances toward a married woman or about bragging about them to her husband. Why Candida appears to welcome Eugene’s advances, we’re not exactly sure, except that if she just rebuffed him at the start, there wouldn’t be a play. At the time it was written, perhaps the message that a woman might get to speak her own mind was novel. Today it feels dated.

While the characters are at a loss for what to do to solve their dilemmas, Walton correspondingly has them wander around stage without any purpose, and spend a lot of time primping pillows, straightening an afghan and stoking the fire on his set (Heather Wolensky is the associate designer) lighted by Richard Pilbrow. In fact, the afghan gets a final smoothing during the curtain call as well, just for good measure. Most of the period costumes work, except for an elegant green velvet gown Candida wears at her entrance. The dress seems of the wrong period as well as inappropriate for the travelling she just completed.

If you enjoy tales where not much happens, but all turns out well in the end and where there will be no content notes at the end of this review, then Candida is the play for you. It runs through Sunday at Irish Rep, 132 West 22nd St., NYC. For tickets call 212- 727-2737.

Christians might like to know:
• No content notes. Enjoy.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice preseint and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (event manager for the annual awards ceremony), The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and the Drama League. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She also is a member of the Episcopal Actors' Guild, the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts and The O'Neill Theatre Center..

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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