A Minister’s Wife – Play Review
“Candida here, and Candida there, and Candida Everywhere! Oh the enchantment.” The musical “A Minister’s Wife”, currently playing at San Jose Rep, based on a book by Austin Pendleton, based on the original George Bernard Shaw’s “Candida”, is conceived and brilliantly directed by Michael Halberstam. Enchanting lyrics by Jan Levy Tranen capture the essence of Shaw’s wit; music is provided by Joshua Schmidt and Musical Director is Dolores Duran-Cefalu.
What notions about love did Victorian women hold? Did they mindlessly bid, as they were told? The plot centers around beautiful and gorgeous Candida (Sharon Rietkerk is brilliant in the role), facing a choice between her smart but stuffy husband, the Rev. Morell and lovestruck, passionate, young poet, Eugene Marchbanks (brilliantly played by Christopher Vettel and Tim Homsley respectively). Rev. Morell, a Christian socialist, aspires to change the world. He is rudely confronted and accused by Marchbanks, who believes his own love for Candida to be superior to Morell’s and tells Morell, “you selfishly blindly sacrifice her (Candida) to your pious ambitions”. Morell, who harbored no doubt that others would be swayed by his lofty words and speeches, has his confidence greatly shaken as Marchbanks says, “is it always like this for her, with your metaphors, your rhetoric, your speeches?” Jarrod Zimmerman playing the role of The Reverend “Lexy” Mill and Liz Baltes in the role of Miss Proserpine “Prossy” are brilliant.
With little doubt that his wife loves the young poet, Rev. Morell confronts Candida and demands that she make a choice. “I am up for auction, it seems”, say says, “I am waiting to hear your bid”. What does each of them offer and who does she choose? In their desire to gain her love, as they jostle with what they can offer, Marchbanks, a poet, foolishly, madly in love, is week and desolate. And what can Morell offer; a reverend “spoiled from the cradle, spoiled from the alter”, living in a “castle of comfort”, built by his wife? Shaw’s brilliant play is a tribute to the hidden strength of the women. It reminded me of a line from the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, “the man is the head, but the woman is the neck that turns the head.”
Stephanie Schliemann and Deirdre Rose Holland have done a fabulous job as Stage Managers and Brandin Baron’s Costume Design transports the audience back in time, without any obvious appearance of absurdness. I absolutely loved the musical and am certain it will play to sold out audiences. For tickets, go to www.sjrep.com .