By & About, G.B.S., Them, at Strawdog Theatre. Sam Patterson’s muddled attempt to distill two decades’ worth of correspondence between playwright George Bernard Shaw and renowned actress Ellen Terry suffers most from his inability to keep the characters consistent–surprising given that the entire text of Wit and Moonlight: A Paper Courtship is taken verbatim from their letters. Though thankfully Patterson hasn’t attempted to manufacture drama by adding dialogue, the way he’s arranged these fragments nonetheless sensationalizes the pair’s relationship. Even worse, his editing reduces Shaw to a doddering old lovesick fool spouting witticisms to the coquettish Terry. And though Patterson does well by highlighting their sexual frustration, he never fully explores it: his adaptation relies too heavily on blackouts to portray the characters’ tumultuous, unconsummated affair.

The second half of this double-bill debut by the Them theater company is Village Wooing, an obscure Shaw one-act about an unlikely romance between a provincial shopkeeper and a curmudgeonly author of travel guides. R. John Roberts and Judy Blue (who play Shaw and Terry in Wit and Moonlight) are again paired as diametric opposites. As a vehicle for exploring the relationship between Shaw and Terry, Village Wooing merits some interest. The problem is both scripts’ lack of substance, something even a lavish set can’t disguise.

–Nick Green