Candida - Gingold Theatrical Group

Candida - The Gingold Theatrical Group

The Gingold Theatrical Group (GTG), New York, has for years been producing monthly readings of Shaw's plays on stage. In this time of the plague, they're one of the innovative companies adapting to the lock-down by going digital. Starting on May 20th and available online for five days, they presented a reading of Shaw's Candida.

Candida was the fifth of Shaw's plays, written in 1894 and published in 1898 as one of the Plays Pleasant. Its first success was in new York in 1903, and a second success followed in London the next year. Both cities were said to  be struck with Candidamania.

And, indeed, it's a delightful play. The inspirational cleric James Morell and his wife Candida are joined in a cerebral ménage à trois by a young romantic, Eugene Marchbanks, who thinks Morell doesn't deserve her. This early play anticipates the later Shavian classics. Morell foreshadows Shaw's socialists such as John Tanner from Man and Superman: Marchbanks talks of the minister's "everlasting preaching, preaching, words, words, words".

GTG's reading is terrific, adapted and directed by the company's AD, David Staller. He's kept the dialogue - and, after all, an online reading is nothing but dialogue and acting - brisk and intelligent. For the most part, the performances are classically Shavian. Renée Elise Goldsberry as Candida is charming and confident; Santino Fontana as Morell is upright and, as Marchbanks calls him, self-complacent; Andréa Burns as the secretary who discovers the joys of champagne is complex; Jay O. Sanders is suitably in the line of Shaw's vulgar businessmen; Michael Benjamin Washington makes the most of a minor role. Of course, all the characters are smart. These actors understand the detachment in Shavian acting - the creation of an attitude. Only Andrew Keenan-Bolger falters; he doesn't understand Shavian acting and his Marchbanks is just silly.

That's more, the cast is adept at the upper-class British dialect that Shaw demands; they never lay it on too heavy. However, Candida's father is clearly meant to speak cockney -  he says "Garn", like Eliza Dolittle - and Mr. Sanders, inexplicably, barely suggests it.

If online readings aren't new, it's interesting to watch the form being developed by our community. It must be like seeing the creation of natural acting under Stanislavski. Mr. Staller and The GTG adjust to its demands. Congratulations to them for this.

- Steve Capra
May 2020

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