‘Pygmalion’ at The Washington Stage Guild by Erica Laxson

The Washington Stage Guild has been working their way through George Bernard Shaw’s prolific plays and their 26th season includes their 25th presentation of one of his works. Director Bill Largess works his magic to present the popular Pygmalion, the inspiration for My Fair Lady. Together with a phenomenally talented cast, Largess brings Victorian England to life with all its prudishly hilarious sentiments. Look forward to an enjoyable evening of brain tickling wit, romantic tension , and the sauciest set of actors in the city.

Eliza (Rana Kay) and Henry (Steven Carpenter). Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

The familiar story of Dr. Henry Higgins (Steven Carpenter) and his diamond in the rough, Eliza Doolittle (Rana Kay) will set your heart racing in a way My Fair Lady’s sweet musical coating never could. Tension builds as Carpenter forcefully leads Kay through unflinching lessons in life and they grow more alike and further apart at the same time. Carpenter is the personification of a cold and analytical academic and fits the role of father figure turned love interest with more severity than romantic charm. Kay has certainly mastered the annoying guttural cockney accent and ear splitting wail her character requires, but her polished post-transformation Eliza is a little more stilted than smooth.

Higgins’ accomplice Colonel Pickering (Vincent Clark ) is genial, sweet, and a perfect contrast with Eliza’s Father, the crash and uncouth Alfred Doolittle (Conrad Feininger). Clark can’t compete with Carpenter’s raw energy, but he holds his own against Feininger and the incomparable Mrs. Pierce (Laura Giannarelli). Higgins’ mother (Lynn Steinmetz), suffers no fools and manipulates her son and Eliza with perfected indifference.

Clara Eynsford-Hill (Nora Palka), Mrs. Eynsford-Hill (Mimsi Janis) and Freddy Eynsford-Hill (Phil Dickerson) fulfill their necessary roles as catalysts and comic relief, but their accents were the least believable of the group. Overall, the cast chemistry led to one hilarious moment after another and the show will leave you desperate for more.

Five stars for an engaging evening is a suspended world that is almost as believable as the world outside.

The intimate space of the Washington Stage Guild’s theater only enhanced the delicious tension, but it was set Designer Kirk Kristlibas who turned the small space into three unique sets with ingenious turning columns lit to a life-like perfection by lighting designer Marianna Meadows. Costumes are elegantly designed by Basmah M. Alomar finalized the period and the people as well as paralleling Eliza’s journey from guttersnipe to lovely lady.

Professor Henry Higgins (Steven Carpenter) and Eliza Doolittle (Rana Kay). Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

Running Time: Two and a half hours, with one intermission.

Pygmalion plays through November 18, 2012 at the Washington Stage Guild – 900 Massachusetts Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC. For tickets call (240) 582-0050, or visit them online.


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