George Bernard Shaw is well known as a playwright of ideas and political discourse, but what many people don’t realize is that his ability to write comedy was nearly unparalleled in the English-speaking theatre (Shakespeare being the one exception). Set alongside his broad comedies “The Philanderer” and “The Millionairess”, “You Never Can Tell” is Shaw’s comic masterpiece.
Remy Bumppo’s current production at the Greenhouse Theater Center hits most of the right notes. Valentine (Greg Matthew Anderson), has just established a practice as a “five shilling dentist,” and his first patient is Dolly Clandon (C. Jaye Miller). She and her twin brother Philip (Alex Weisman) are two of the three children of Mrs. Lanfrey Clandon (Elaine Rivkin), a women’s self-help writer conversant on early Twentieth-century behavior. Mrs. Clandon’s third (and oldest) child is Gloria (Eliza Stoughton), a priggishly conflicted young lady who has not been prepared one iota for life in the modern world. As soon as Valentine meets Gloria, however, the situation is turned topsy-turvy. This being a Shaw play, of course, we cannot escape the societal issues inherent: the function that women’s rights and law have in society.
Two performances stand out in particular: Greg Matthew Anderson as Valentine, and Alex Weisman as Philip. Mr. Anderson’s Valentine is a delightful mix of smitten puppy dog and fortune hunter in one. Mr. Weisman infuses his Philip with the right mix of believable quirkiness that you literally cannot wait for him to come on stage again. The rest of the cast, particularly Peter A. Davis, as Finch McComas, the family solicitor stuck in past ideals, and Dale Benson as the waiter, deliver quite solid performances. On opening night, the first act took a bit to get going, but quite soon settled into a solid rhythm. You Never Can Tell is a solid production, and very worthy of your holiday entertainment dollars.