Corrections or additions?

This review by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

August 25, 1999. All rights reserved.

Review: `Dear Liar’

Apparently George Bernard Shaw was as prolific a letter

writer as he was a critic, author, and journalist. His more romantic

side blossomed conspicuously in his voluminous correspondence with

the equally droll and witty Mrs. Patrick Campbell, the noted diva

who had her greatest professional triumph as Eliza in

"Pygmalion"

— the play Shaw wrote for her.

In "Dear Liar," by Jerome Kilty, Shaw and Campbell each occupy

their own respective spaces in a Victorian drawing room (handsomely

designed by David Raphel), and either read or soliloquize the text

of their admonishing and adoring epistles. With Tony nominee Marian

Seldes ("Ring Round the Moon") as Campbell, and the fine Irish

character actor, Donel Donnelly, as Shaw, the readings resonate with

humor and drama. Whether or not these two actors approximate the

delight

created when Katherine Cornell and Brian Aherne originated the roles

on Broadway in 1958 is not nearly as important as the sheer joy of

the current occasion at the Irish Repertory Theater.

I can’t vouch that the real Mrs. Campbell was as much fun to watch

as Seldes. However, the irresistibly theatrical Seldes is an actress

who lets neither a word nor a silence escape her dramatic inspection.

This is not to imply that Seldes lacks finesse and subtlety, only

that you will not want to take your eyes off her for one second, lest

you miss the nuance of a lifetime. The sheer bravura of Seldes’

presence

might intimidate an actor less in control of his character than

Donnelly,

who, nevertheless, holds his own by means of his own calculating

wiles.

The playful and adoring declarations and the willful venom that

punctuated

the pair’s long standing but non-sexual relationship make for

consistently

amusing listening. They take us from Mrs. Campbell’s early

turn-of-the-century

stage triumphs to her failure to succeed in the Hollywood of the

1930s.

Humor is abundant, but never more so than in the scene that has

Seldes,

as the middle-aged Mrs. Campbell, overdoing Eliza’s cockney accent

in a rehearsal of "Pygmalion." If one might complain that

Donnelly spends too much time confined to his writing desk by director

Charlotte Moore, there is no stopping Seldes, as she floods the room

with a radiance that is already legendary in its own right.

HHH

— Simon Saltzman

Dear Liar, Irish Repertory, 132 West 22 Street, between

6th & 7th Avenue, 212-727-2737. $30 & $35. To September 19.


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