David Staller, in his “Note from the Director” of The Pearl Theater Company and Gingold Theatrical Group production of You Never Can Tell, writes that “this charming comedy was so revolutionary for its time that the actors who were cast in its original production at London’s famed Haymarket Theater found it impossible to navigate the psychological twists and turns the play demanded resulting in all of them, one by one, walking out.”
In a comical turn of events of my own, I almost had to leave because the opening scene is one of young dentist Mr. Valentine (Sean McNall) pulling out the tooth of teenaged Dolly Clandon (Emma Wisniewski) with the sort of “pop” that one hears when flicking an index finger against the inner cheek. Having myself had a protracted dental extraction barely 48 hours earlier, I was taken aback, notwithstanding the period scenes (by Mind the Gap) and costumes from the TDF Costume Collection. When shortly thereafter, Valentine’s landlord Fergus Crampton (Bradford Cover) has a tooth similarly pulled, my companion tugged on my sleeve to do a quick check to see if I was experiencing empathetic (or actual) pain.
Here is the mark of a fun production – after the first pop, and young Valentine’s
introduction of profession, I found myself quite immersed in the Shavian comedy. Imagine middle aged divorced parents, one daughter (Amelia Pedlow) who vaguely remembers a father, young twins (Wisniewski and fraternal twin Philip, played with equal over-the-top glee by Ben Charles) who recall nothing of the man, name changes, unfortunate (or fortunate) encounters years later in a resort town. To add to the hilarity, waitstaff Walter Boon (Dan Daily) finds himself to be immersed in the drama which his son Walter Bohun (Zachary Spicer) comes to mediate, with excessive (and excessively handsome) pomposity. Shaw’s original cast may have been dazed, perplexed and scandalized, but this is a contemporary American family, but for the accents, costumes and resort decor. What may have been confusing social and psychological structure in London would not cause even a raised eyebrow in Judge Judy’s court.
That may have been why this performance was so fun, even if the acting was (almost certainly deliberately) directed to be so over the top. In a less dentally aware state, I may have enjoyed the play less, rather than more.
This just goes to show that You Never Can Tell.
Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD was named the 2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year at St. Francis College. Her book, Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America: The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press, 2012) (100 year study of US and UK doctors prosecuted for medical euthanasia/assisted suicide and role of media) was nominated, 2014 International Qualitative Inquiry Book Prize and was nominated and short listed for the 2013 BSC Criminology Book Prize.