When you combine the witty words of George Bernard Shaw, incredible acting talent and present them in the enchanted setting that is Theatricum Botanicum, it gives you an absolutely delightful evening. Heartbreak House is just one of 5 productions that can be seen at Theatricum this summer. I was very much looking forward to this production after my positive experience with their presentation of Measure for Measure. Using some of the same actors in both productions (why wouldn’t they when they have such superb actors on hand) this play is hilarious and bizarre and the equally talented cast gives themselves over completely to Shaw’s clever dialogue.
Heartbreak House is a farce that takes place in a country house in England in 1914. There are a variety of house guests who fall in and out of love with one another in a matter of minutes. I always judge a great play on whether or not it feels like I am actually watching a play. Due to the impeccable acting and brilliant direction by Ellen Geer, this production felt more as if I was a neighbor, peeking in on this bizarre evening.
Melora Marshall who plays the slightly off her rocker Hesione Hushabye, floats around the stage as if she is on some sort of drugs. Her constant smirking, reminds one of the Cheshire cat, as she plays master puppeteer over her house guests and family. Hesione’s half-delirious father Captain Shotover played to quiet hilarity by William Dennis Hunt, steals the show whenever he moseys on stage muttering some nonsense about pirates or dynamite.
The play itself may be full of utter nonsense but it has many themes that echo true today even though it was written in 1919. Mention of economical status and the unfairness of the business world and those who run it, could all have been words written about today. It is often true that plays written many years ago, can come full circle and have the same meaning they did when they were written.
It is a compliment to the theater company who can flawlessly present any play, particularly one nearly a century old. I highly recommend both Heartbreak House and Measure for Measure. And though these are the only two I have seen thus far, I will take a leap and suggest the others as well. For going to see a play at Theatricum Botanicum is not just a night out at the theater, it is an experience.
Due to the high volume of shows, show times for each play varies weekly. Please check their website for a full schedule.