Captain Brassbound’s Conversion

Shaw Chicago has dug up another half-buried Shavian treasure, an early trifle written for Ellen Terry, George Bernard Shaw’s favorite actress–until he encountered Mrs. Patrick Campbell. Lady Cicely Waynflete is a spunky globe-trotter (based on a real explorer) who defies convention with her invincible common sense. Gamely journeying to Morocco with her magistrate brother-in-law and a guide, the gruff Captain Brassbound, she’s confronted with a family scandal and a sheikh who slaughters Christians. But Cicely’s resourcefulness saves the day, converting Captain Brassbound from revenge to love. There are few ideas at large in this 1900 showcase, just dotty characters caught in a capricious plot. The script’s main attraction is its menagerie of lowlife survivors, whose venal opportunism anticipates Pygmalion’s Alfred P. Doolittle–and whose ethnic eccentricities offer a delicious feast of accents here, including Duane Sharp’s Highland burr, Terence Gallagher’s cockney blather, Ammar Daraiseh’s Arabic rant, and Ted Hoerl’s Yankee treble as a garrulous sea captain. Robert Scogin’s charming staged reading savors Shaw’s vintage quips and paradoxes, and sparkles with wry character turns. As the ever chipper Cicely, Belinda Bremner aptly blends pluck and grit, Tony Dobrowolski stuffs his shirt with snobbery as a pompous judge, and Richard Marlatt’s obsessed Brassbound sparks with flinty zeal. Chicago Cultural Center, studio theater, 78 E. Washington (enter at 77 E. Randolph), 312-742-1079. Through May 18: Saturdays-Sundays, 2 PM; Mondays, 7 PM. Free, but reservations are required.

–Lawrence Bommer

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): theater still by Taylor Boyle.