Chicago Theatre Review

Chicago Theatre Review

The Millionairess

October 16, 2012 Reviews Comments Off on The Millionairess
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Artistic Director extraordinaire Robert Scogin ushers in ShawChicago’s 19th season of staged readings with their wittiest, most polished and entertaining production they’ve ever produced. The general consensus opening night, in fact, was that a fully staged production, adorned with lavish sets and costumes would be welcomed, but wouldn’t be any finer than this. Between Shaw’s wickedly clever script, Mr. Scogin’s smart, sensitive direction and the superb performances by a talented cast, this theatre supports the claim that it’s “the best-kept secret in Chicago.”
Written in 1936, Shaw’s comedy (penned expressly for, but rejected by, Dame Edith Evans) finally became a hit when Katherine Hepburn headlined in sold-out productions, both in London and New York. The play later starred Carol Shelley at the 1977 Canadian Shaw Festival and finally became familiar to the general public as a film starring Sophia Loren and Peter Sellers. Without giving away too much, Shaw’s comedy is not only very funny, but it seems almost contemporary given certain political attitudes of the 1%. Epifania Ognisanti di Parerga Fitzfassenden (an heiress whose name is as long as her bank statement) is a spoiled woman with an Electra complex, an insatiable hunger for money and for any man capable of making more of it. As played by Lydia Berger Gray, Epifania is the alpha female among her peers, bent on controlling and running everyone else’s lives. Ms. Berger drips with sarcasm and is all rolling vowels, clipped consonants and sweeping gestures. But Mr. Scogin directs his leading lady–indeed, his entire cast–to mine theatrical magic within the playwright’s carefully chosen words.
The men in Epifania’s life, played with panache and drollery by Gary Alexander as Alastair Fitzfassenden, Jonathan Nichols as Adrian Blenderbland and Mark Plonsky as the Egyptian Doctor, each bring a new energy and point of view to the play. Joe Bowen nicely creates sagely solicitor Sagamore, Skip Lundby and Mary Michell delightfully play Joe and his wife, sweatshop owners who fall victim to Epifania’s manipulations and Matthew Gall is dutifully subservient as the heiress‘ new Hotel Manager. But Jhenai Mootz, as Patricia “Seedystockings” Smith, shows the most spunk and sophistication as the only character able to hold her ground with the pampered princess.
Once again ShawChicago demonstrates the truth in that old adage that less is more. By bringing theatre

patrons excellent plays stripped of all the falderal and excess associated with full productions, the audience can concentrate on the playwright’s words as presented by a talented company who cares. And for those who have never had the pleasure of their company, this is a must-see play for you.

Highly recommended.
ShawChicago performing at The Ruth Page Theater
1016 N. Dearborn Street, Chicago
312-587-7390
www.shawchicago.org
Runs October 13-November 5
Saturdays @ 2 p.m.
Sundays @ 2 p.m.
Mondays @ 7 p.m.

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