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Home / Neighborhood / San Gabriel Valley / Pasadena Independent / Pygmalion: Artistry in Almost Every Aspect

Pygmalion: Artistry in Almost Every Aspect

by Pasadena Independent
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-Photo courtesy Pasadena Playhouse

-Photo by Jim Cox, courtesy Pasadena Playhouse

By Nathaniel Cayanan

George Bernard Shaw’s classic stage play Pygmalion has a long, esteemed history. Over the century since its inception, it’s seen a multitude of iterations on stage and screen, even inspiring the 1964 Academy Award-winning film, “My Fair Lady,” and the 2015 teenage comedy, “The Duff.” This places great expectations on director Jessica Kubzansky and her creative team as they attempt to bring one of Shaw’s greatest works to the Pasadena Playhouse. Fortunately, this gritty interpretation does not disappoint.

Demonstrating incredible artistry in almost every facet of its production (with elaborate sets and costumes, brilliant lighting techniques that provide a nostalgic hue, and impressive animated video projections) Kubzansky and her production designers provide alluring aesthetics that fling us back into early twentieth century London. Here, we follow Henry Higgins, a pompous phonetics professor, who, out of mere boredom, wagers that he can transform a common flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, from an ill-mannered “guttersnipe” to an elegant duchess just by teaching her how to speak properly.

With effortless finesse, this diverse cast delivers intricately crafted performances, with even their slightest gestures (the jingle of loose change in a pocket, a flick of the hand or a tilt of the head) somehow conveying incredible depth to their characters. Bruce Turk, who plays Henry, brings a performance that maintains his character’s haughty nature, but somehow subtly brings out a greater sense of humanity. Despite his profound condescension in almost every line he speaks, Turk’s Henry is sympathetic, even charming, as a man who, even though is an expert at human speech, cannot seem to truly connect with those who might love him. Dueling with Turk’s performance, Paige Lindsey White’s masterful portrayal as Eliza is captivating, preserving the poetry of Shaw’s dialogue while carrying complex emotional weight. Additionally, they are bolstered by a wonderful supporting cast—especially with Mary Anne McGarry and Time Winters, who play Mrs. Higgins and Alfred Doolittle, respectively.

-Photo courtesy Pasadena Playhouse

-Photo by Jim Cox, courtesy Pasadena Playhouse

The play generally stays truthful to Shaw’s original text which, in past productions, has seen its ending changed completely to appeal to a broader audience demanding a happier ending. Kubzansky, however, does make a slight, yet important change—but not to any dialogue nor plot points. Rather, it is in the final few seconds that those who are familiar with the source material will surely notice. Whether such a choice is seen as an improvement or not, it at least brings greater poignancy to one of its central messages: Even a guttersnipe deserves to be treated like a lady.

Pygmalion will run at The Pasadena Playhouse, 39 South El Molino Ave., Pasadena, CA 91107, until April 12th, 2015. Weekday performances: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m. Weekend performances: Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets available online at PasadenaPlayhouse.org, by calling (626) 356-7529 and the Box Office which is open Tuesday to Sunday from 1pm-6pm. Prices range from $30-$75, plus premium seating at $125.

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