Reviewed by Judy Richter
The title character in George Bernard Shaw's "Candida" could be seen as an early feminist, a woman who chooses to live as she does. As so beautifully played by Julie Eccles in the California Shakespeare Theater production, she has a choice between her husband and a lovesick young poet. As directed by artistic director Jonathan Moscone, this production makes the choice relatively easy.
Candida's husband -- and the father of their two children -- is the Rev. James Morell (Anthony Fusco), a Christian socialist noted for his oratory. The audience sees none of that, however. Instead, he's seen at home, where Fusco portrays him as a low-key, albeit successful, man who regards himself as happily married. That confidence is undermined by canny observations by Eugene Marchbanks (Nick Gabriel), the shy, socially inept yet florid 18-year-old poet who has become Candida's devoted follower. However, Gabriel makes Eugene so foppish and so emotionally volatile that one can hardly see him paired with the 33-year-old, centered and sensible Candida.
In a similar vein, Jarion Monroe's portrayal of Candida's rich but boorish father, Mr. Burgess, is a bit over the top. One can only imagine that Candida must have gotten her good qualities from her mother, who we assume is deceased.
The cast is nicely completed by Liam Vincent as the Rev. Lexy Mill, James's young curate; and Alexandra Henrikson as Miss Proserpine Garnett, James's prim secretary, who's secretly in love with him.
The production is distinguished by a handsome Victorian set by Annie Smart, complemented by York Kennedy's lighting. Anna Oliver's period costumes are highlighted by gorgeous outfits for Candida. The sound is by Will McCandless.
Except for Gabriel and Monroe overplayng their roles as Eugene and Mr. Burgess, respectively, the production is well done, stressing some salient points as well as some humorous moments. Presented in three acts with two 10-minute intermissions and no lulls, it runs a crisp two hours, highlighted by Eccles' performance.