Take nine players, throw them into a living room, knock out a wall and give them an audience. Without action the result is liable to be dull exposition of the ordinary topics of life, unless a catalytic agent is inserted. In the present production by the Brattle Hall players, George Bernard Shaw is the catalyst; his magic transforms the discussion into an amusing, intelligent play which the actors handle in a most capable manner.
"Misalliance" is Shaw late in his first period. He is less concerned with dramatic plots than with what he has to say. Four characters present contrasting points of view: John Tarleton Sr. (Jerry Kilty), a prosperous underwear manufacturer and a representative of the middle class, would revolt against his day to day life for one of ideas; his son (Miles Morgan), a middle class moralist, "likes to know where he is;" daughter Hypatia (Helen Mareey) fights against her middle class associates who sit around and "discuss whether what other people say is right;" and Lord Summerhays (Thayer David) represents traditional English aristocracy.
Lina Sczepanowskae, (Jan Farrand), a beauteous Polish acrobat, assists the principals in defining their viewpoints, serving as the object of their individual amorous efforts. She spurns them all for her independence; the curtain falls and the audience is left to judge the elements of each philosophy for what it is worth. They are not all compatible, and the audience is left with the Shavian scurge, the unresolved paradox.
The parts for the most part are handled adequately. Kilty is excellent as old Tarleton. He says, "In the theater of life everyone is amused but the actor," and then goes to "contemplate his destiny."
Miss Mareey mixes frivolity and seriousness with a skill that gives depth to her role; Miss Farrand handles the difficult role of the aerobat adequately although she seems a bit forced. Unfortunately Morgan's John is not quite natural and makes his point somewhat more difficult to comprehend. Most outstanding is Peter Temple, who as an impoverished clerk gives a great deal of blunt humor to a play which is necessarily more subtle in its important topics.
No role in "Misalliance" is outstanding. It is therefore important for the players to produce a well-integrated whole, which they do with case and skill.