With a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dramaturgy/Dramatic Criticism, Alyssa Dyksterhouse has over 20 years of professional theater experience. She recently returned from the living in the Pacific Northwest where she wrote about arts and culture for Seattle Weekly and Seattle Gay Scene.
Remy Bumppo’s PYGMALION. Photo by Johnny Knight.
Review: PYGMAILION at Remy Bumppo Theatre Company
By Allysa Dyksterhouse
As a patchouli splashed undergrad, I studied PYGMALION and cooed about its societal statements while snubbing the subtitle of romance. The political themes? Yes. The indictment on the classes? Absolutely. A manifesto on the importance of education for self-determination? Damn straight. But an amorous antidote? Not so much.
Remy Bumppo’s accessible production has me re-thinking this play as a love story. PYGMALION tells the story of Professor Henry Higgins who guides ragamuffin Eliza—Elizabeth—Doolittle to speak suitably and suggest herself as a respectable lady. This production employs the premise that this is a series of sentimental remembrances; hence supplying a heart-based exploration focusing on the heroine’s transformation and point of view.
From casting to pacing to interpretation, director Shawn Douglass gives a gratifying evening of lingual gymnastics and generous guffaws.
Nick Sandys (Henry Higgins) revolts and enraptures while personifying more pride and prejudice than a Jane Austin novel. Kelsey Brennan (Eliza Doolittle) convincingly changes from a dictionally challenged brat to proper British woman. After cheering for her, I felt tears of heartbroken rage and resentment as she wonders what is going to become of her. Additionally, Annabel Armour (Mrs. Higgins) wreaks a warmth to the stereotypically reserved society matron; thus, inspiring me to trot to her house for tea when I am troubled.
This play often lends itself to realistic—and intricate—Victorian lavishness but Jacqueline and Richard Penrod’s scenic design is functional and appropriate for this in-the-round setting; yet, they employ elusive elements—tiles and light fixtures—evincive of the era. Meanwhile, Kristy Leigh Hall’s costumes rival any period-piece with a bulkier budget.
This script’s ending is as abstruse as that of GILMORE GIRLS: A YEAR IN THE LIFE and similarly as open for supposition; however, Remy Bumppo’s interpretation offers hope while leaving me yearning for a Kickstarter so Shaw could write a bloody sequel for Netflix. #ElizabethDoolittle. Yet, in life we seldom have Hollywood endings nor is anything predictable. Considering the election and the ensuing aftermath, contemplate that we have zero idea how it is going to go or what happens next.
I encourage you to disregard everything you know about the George Bernard Shaw classic and attend the Remy Bumppo production with a beginner’s mind. At the very least, you will have a devil of a good time.