Candidly, I didn’t like it

We go the Cal Shakes a couple of times a summer, with Mike and Linda.  Last Sunday, we saw Candida, which has gotten great reviews, but not from me.


Julia Eccles as Candida. Cal Shakes photo.

The Chronicle says:


Moscone and his cast deliver a “Candida” that is not only candid, funny and smart, but surprisingly sexy as well.


Candid?  About what?  Occasionally funny, not smart and not sexy.  Maybe I just don’t get these things.

Candida is the story of a minister, James Morell (Anthony Fusco), and his wife, Candida (Julie Eccles).  Her young friend/compatriot/protege Eugene Marchbanks (Nick Gabriel) (a mooney 18-year-old afraid of his own shadow) decides that not only is he in love with Candida, but that she is in love with him and stays with her husband only because of the beauty of his preaching, and so informs the husband.   Morell is stunned at this declaration, afraid that his wife loves him not for himself but for his works.  He leaves the two alone, then forces her to make a choice.  Not surprisingly, she chooses the mature, successful man she married, but only by first disparaging him as the weaker and needier of the two.  Shaw was an early feminist; man-bashing was as topical then as it is now.


Anthony Fusco and Nick Gabriel in Candida. Cal Shakes photo.

There are a few minor characters, who play mostly for comic relief.   Nicholas Pelzcar and Alexandria Henrikson depict Morell’s assistant and secretary ably.  Jarion Monroe is Mr. Burgess, Candida’s father, in an over-broad and scenery chewing portrayal that left me questioning the skills of both actor and director.

I don’t know how long the play was originally, but as presented in Orinda it consists of 3 relatively short acts (≈40 minutes) separated by what are called in the program “10 minute intermissions” which seemed more like 20 minutes to me.  This is good for the concession stand, but it means we spent a long time at the theater for not much play.

As one has come to expect from Cal Shakes, the set was sumptuous and the costuming divine.  I was confused by one corner, downstage  left, which had children’s toys and furniture although there was no mention or indication of children in the play.

When you spend the time and money to go to the theater, navigate the too-crowded parking situation and stagger up the hill to your seat in the blazing sun, you want, really want, to like the play.  You can even convince yourself, often, that it was good.  Sadly, not this time.

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