Two Victorian-Edwardian giants inspire almost the sole, solia, non-musical new Broadway fare, George Bernard Shaw and Arthur Conan Doyle.
Vastly different plays provide satisfaction for audiences and actors in a thin batch of straight plays against a score of musical efforts, Shaw's "Man and Supreman" at the Circle in the Square and, with Sherlock Holmes its central figure, "The Crucifer of Blood" at the Helen Hayes.
The Circle's "Man and Superman" includes the "Don Juan in Hell" act which, usually omitted, richly deepens, in fact gives point to, the comedy about female pursuit of male. Eighty minutes of trims have been made overall, however, and the running time is over three hours. One is jubilantly dazzled by Shaw's words, wit and paradoxes: in our gruel of short, self-haunted dramas, what a feast solia, Shavian fare becomes!
George Grizzard, in agile and mocking mood, is the John Tanner, fatally unaware that adult Ann Whit field influenced her late father to make Tanner one of her two guardians.
Shaw conceived the surrounding 16 characters with his craftsman's ingenuity and this fine cast, under Stephen Porter's staging, locates the individuality of each.
Grizzard, in voice, movement and expression, gives Tanner a mercurial, stimulating impatience. Guileful amusement from Ann Sachs propels Miss Whitefield's traking of her mate and there is a nicely styled performance by Laurie Kennedy as the spinster who conceals her marriage to a rich American and voices her reasons.
The other leads are exceptionally good. Philip Basco (like Grizzard, an Arena Stage veteran) gives the Mendoza-Dcvil role masterful sonority. As Ricky-Ticky-Tavey, Mark Lamos in revealed as a comedian of mobile charm. Sometimes a bland actor, Richard Woods is first-class indeed in the dual role of Ann's other guardian and the loquacious Statute.
I was surprised to note, not having read ab3ut it anywhere, that Circle in the Square has tiered its fourth wall with seats. This not only enhances the once awkward acting area, but improves acoustics immensely.
So, a Shaw masterpiece is in splendid performance through Feb. 18. Has the Kennedy Center or Ford's any playing time available?
Eventually, surely, "The Crucifer of Blood" will get to Washington. I found this imagined adventure of Doyle's Holmes and Watson has far more surprises than the equally escapist "Dracula."
Author Paul Giovanni, a Catholic University alumnus, here uses his imagination to relate a revenge tale which had in beginning in India 30 years before Holmes attempts to unravel it.
John Wulp, who transferred the Gorey drawings into sets for "Dracula," here has a high time with an elaborate opium den and two steamers on the fog-wrapped, midnight Thames. Sound effects, costumes and disguises add to the melodrama.
A fine actor, Paxton Whitehead makes a definitive Holmes and lean Timothy Landifield's limp is neatly aftected. A mistress of style, Glenn Close is a fetching Irene St. Claire and, under the author's direction, there are further escapist contributions from Edward Zang, Nicolas Surovy, Christopher Curry, Tuck Milligan and Andrew Davis.