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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 26, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 34
Familiar Pygmalion succinct and clever
Arts & Entertainment
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Familiar Pygmalion succinct and clever

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Pygmalion
Center House
Theater
Through August 28


The classic musical My Fair Lady was inspired by a play by George Bernard Shaw. The witty, upper-crust, very British Shaw created an accessible and delightful play, Pygmalion, in 1912. Pygmalion is being presented over two weekends by the tiny Sound Theatre Company in the Center House Theater, and we're already approaching the second weekend.

This lovely production, on a typically tiny budget, has a sophisticated feeling and some terrific local actors. A couple of designers created lushness out of little - particularly set designer Craig Wollam (with an assist from Seattle Scenic), who made a versatile two-side Victorian drawing room in white and office/library in bookish browns. Costumer Deborah Sorensen created sensible Victorian garb, but outdid herself on the beautiful gown that Eliza Doolittle wears on the night of her triumphant test.

How can you not know the story of linguist Henry Higgins (Frank Lawler) who picks up a flower girl (Carolyn Marie Monroe) from the gutter, and on a bet with Colonel Pickering (Bill Higham), schools her over six months to fool high society into thinking she's a duchess or princess? Shaw's play has everything the musical does except the songs. Indeed, as you watch the play, you almost anticipate the actors breaking into 'Just You Wait' or 'I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face'!

The three named actors do a smashing job inhabiting the familiar characters. Lawler is a great choice for Higgins, since he is actually not supposed to be as old as many have played him - a confirmed bachelor and a curmudgeon, yes, but perhaps in his late 30s. Lawler pulls off all the contradictions with high style, as Higgins sneeringly says, 'I never sneer!'

While the subtle attraction between Higgins and Doolittle might be portrayed a tad less subtly, Monroe does a laudable step-by-step transformation from gutter to greatness. Her garden party scene half way through the process is particularly fun to watch. Higham embodies the courtly and warm Pickering to perfection. When Eliza thanks him at the end, her speech is completely believable as to how his kindness was the final ingredient that allowed her to feel like a lady.

Notable assists from a no-nonsense but thoughtful Chris Hille (Mrs. Pearce) and Lee Ann Hittenberger (Higgins' mother, who knows just what a pain in the backside her son can be) help the production whiz along. Daniel A. Guttenberg makes a realistically fun transition from poor rascal to middle-class rogue as Eliza's father. Crisp direction from Sound Theatre founder Teresa Thuman makes the classic all it should be.

You may miss the movie version, which includes scenes that are fun to peek into, like the party at which Eliza enters and pulls off her smashing success, or the consolation Mrs. Higgins gives Eliza when Eliza flees in distress after leaving Higgins' indifferent acknowledgment of her great success. But then, movies embellish. Shaw's play is succinct and clever and tells you everything you need to know about his feelings about the aspirations of the lower class and how women should be treated and honored.

For more information, go to www.soundtheatrecompany.org or www.brownpapertickets.com/event/176342 or call 800-838-3006. Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com.

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