Leslie Stevens’s 1958 Broadway hit is the sort of period piece that was once considered daring by both producers and audiences. So some may question the wisdom of reviving – more than half a century later – this comedy about a sexy young Swedish blonde who arrives in the household of a college anthropology professor and his wife, who just happens to be that institution’s dean of women, with an astonishing proposition.
This self-assured beauty, last seen by her hosts when she was an awkward teenager, has decided that she wants Dr. Paul Delville to father her child. Her reasons are of some anthropological interest with their promise of an offspring offering a remarkable combination of his brains and her beauty. But her dream of achieving such maternal perfection naturally runs into the kind of obstacles you would expect to occur, given this is the kind of commercial play designed to tantalize audiences of 50 years ago rather than to follow through with some actual pay-off.
But what redeems the play today is that Leslie Stevens – a versatile dramatist also responsible for creating television’s decidedly spooky Outer Limits series – was, within his own sphere, a genuinely talented writer. The Marriage-Go-Round was his one genuine Broadway success, and once you get past the silliness of its premise, it’s easy to understand why – given the quality of the production running to the end of this month in Perth.
Director Laurel Smith and her four cast members highlight the endearing virtues of this play. For all the audacity of the central situation created by Stevens all those years ago, it is primarily a character-driven comedy with an abundance of witty dialogue and an awareness of the various social issues – from greater sexual frankness to feminism – which were starting to cause anxieties as the bland Eisenhower decade was drawing to its close in America. Furthermore, given the fact that Paul (Scott Clarkson) and feminist wife Content (Rachel Jones) are both career academics, who don’t necessarily agree with other, the stage is set for an engaging battle of the sexes.
This we get in this production. As the beleaguered Paul, Scott Clarkson proves to be a superb visual comedian. He handles his dialogue with finesse, but his nuances in body language and facial mobility are what you remember most. This is comedy delivered with an expert sense of timing – and understatement. And in the process you also get a sense of the declining self-assurance of this rather smug, self-satisfied prof as he finds himself drawn into unmanageable waters. Rachel Jones shines as his wise and ultimately formidable spouse. Elizabeth Lagerlof is an energetic Swedish bombshell – the scene where she presents Paul with a nude statue of herself is a hoot – but she seems perhaps too earnest and good-natured to be a long-term threat. Kevin Hare is creditable in one of those "best friend" roles.
In brief a polished, enjoyable production, further bolstered by a good set from the reliable David Magladry.
The Classic Theatre Festival production of The Marriage-Go-Round continues at the Full Circle Theatre in Perth to September 1, 2013.
Director: Laurel Smith
Set and lighting: David Magladry
Sound: Matthew Behrens
Costumes: Renate Seiler
Paul Delville………….Scott Clarkson
Content Lowell…………Rachel Jones
Katrin Sveg…………..Elisabeth Lagerlőf
Ross Barnett…………..Kevin Hare
- © 2013 M