In the preface to his 1909 comedy "Misalliance," George Bernard Shaw observed that "Marriage is not a single invariable institution: it changes from civilization to civilization, from religion to religion, from civil code to civil code, from frontier to frontier." Take that, Rep. Sally Kern.
For its once-a-season scheduled break from the Bard, Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park presents "Misalliance." Director D. Lance Marsh has assembled a highly competent cast, several of whom are his students at Oklahoma City University, in this well-staged, pleasant little production.
"Misalliance" takes place on May 31, 1909, at the country house of John Tarleton in the English village of Hindhead. Visiting for the day are Lord Summerhays and his son, Bentley, who is betrothed to Tarleton's daughter, Hypatia. The aviator Joey Percival and Polish acrobat Lina Szczepanowska drop in, literally, and various clandestine connections between the characters are gradually revealed. Oh, yes, let's not forget another visitor: a shady intruder who packs a pistol and bears a grudge.
CENTERS ON MARRIAGE
But all Hindhead's a stage and all these men and women merely players in service to some amusing didacticism. In "Misalliance," Shaw touches on marriage, aging, democracy, education, religion, feminism, socialism, materialism, the travails of parenting and "the morals of our pious capitalist class," but he centers on marriage. Bentley reminds Tarleton that he once called the marriage between his middle-class daughter and a member of the aristocracy a "misalliance."
The production has an alarmingly slow start, but just as the audience is in danger of flagging, Hal Kohlman, playing Tarleton, comes onstage and gives the show a jolt of energy. He is terrific. If this production were on DVD, you would be tempted to fast-forward through the scenes when he is not present.
But don't think that Kohlman carries the production alone on his broad shoulders. Andi Dema as the aviator, with his pencil-thin mustache and matinee-idol good looks, is outstanding, and Eli Gonzalez as the intruding Gunner is endearing, as long as he's not pointing his pistol at anyone. Shayna Vercillo does a commendable job as Hypatia, the daughter who, out of sheer boredom, desires to be wicked. Also notable are Lisa Houghton as Mrs. Tarleton and Shawn Hicks as Lord Summerhays. Tara Wright is challenged by Lina's Polish accent, but her acting is just fine.
Misalliance stages at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday by Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park at the Myriad Botanical Gardens, 100 Myriad Gardens.