A COZY EVENING WITH (GEORGE) BERNARD SHAW, OR THE TRICK OF GBS, Pendulum Theatre Company, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Two hours with this mandarin intellect could hardly be called cozy. Concentrated, yes. Performer-creator Charles G. Likar means to show us the “trick” of how GBS constructed an iconoclastic, even diabolical public image around a mild-voiced vegetarian dreamer who preferred discussing socialism to having sex. Sedately hosting us in his country house in 1933, Likar’s genial genius shares his views on Oscar Wilde, Hitler, and almost every play he ever wrote, with extra attention to the backstage shenanigans on the opening night of Pygmalion. Anecdotes about Hollywood phonies alternate with a passionate defense of his own “drama of moral indictment.” Delighting in propounding paradoxes and dropping names (mostly his own), the beaming, bearded Nobel laureate illustrates his lecture with revealing photos and caricatures (among them a still scandalous 1896 cartoon by Max Beerbohm showing Shakespeare contemplating Frank Harris’s naked bum).
Packed with revelations more likely to confirm a Shavian’s loyalties than convert neophytes, Likar’s 140-minute labor of love honors the writer in detail and design. He captures well Shaw’s twinkling eyes and lilting voice, known from newsreels and records; the set includes dried holly from the master’s grave site. Bill Redding’s unobtrusive staging is equally decorous. If the public Shaw is as private as this one-man show gets, it’s the portraitist’s compliment to the complexity of his sitter.