I have become so accustomed in the last couple of months to seeing plays filmed on the actual stages. I have also recently attended three in-person, socially-distanced shows. This made watching “How He Lied to Her Husband” by George Bernard Shaw in a Zoom-type setting seemed rather quaint. Which was fitting.
The language is elegant. The pacing is quick and the denouement smooth.
It is a witty, self-referential show that Shaw is said to have written in four days. The plot is basically ‘Candida’ sped up. We get through it in 40 minutes.
We meet Henry Apjohn, an 18-year-old poet, nearly swooning over the sight and feel of his chivalric love’s gloves and fan as he waits for her to meet him in the drawing room of her Kensington house. Aurora Bumpass, the lade of a certain age and the young swain’s object of poetic affection, comes sweeping in. She is horrified that her sister-in-law, Georgina, has rifled through her workbox and found the poems penned to her by Henry and shown them to her husband, Teddy.
Being young and feckless, and clueless about financial and society consequences, Henry greets the news joyfully. He sees it as the chance for Aurora to break free of her marriage to the “city man” (obviously he’s in business and how vulgar it is when ART is involved) and run off with him.
Aurora is aghast. She may have enjoyed the flirtation of Henry, but she’s not leaving her home and financial security, not to mention her place in society, to live off of love. She clearly thinks he is mad.
Then Teddy arrives home. After some badinage, he asks to speak to Henry alone and confronts him with the poems. The two come to fisticuffs and Aurora swoops back in to separate them.
But Teddy is delighted with the poems and the light in which they place his Rory. It is now poor Henry’s turn to be aghast and he falls out of love with Aurora.
I’m not giving away spoilers. Anyone somewhat familiar with “Candida” will recognize the twisting of the plot. What makes this show a pleasant diversion is the language — and the not-so-subtle skewering that Shaw delivers to society, youth, age, marriage, gender roles, cohabitation, in-laws, fickleness, and a lady’s favor. One wonders with whom he was peeved. The language is elegant. The pacing is quick and the denouement smooth.
As Aurora, Julie Ann Elliott has the vain, silly, bored, self-absorbed society matron down pat. Jordan Brown as Henry does well as a young cub who thinks he is daring by declaring his love for an older married woman. But as Teddy, Lawrence Redmond is slyly witty and very sure of himself. He knows Aurora is not going anywhere and it is obvious this is a game the two have played before.
Oh, and the beautifully-appointed, completely-on-point drawing room used as background is actually a drawing room in Highclere Castle. It’s a lovely touch.
Running Time: Approximately 40 minutes without intermission.
“How He Lied To Her Husband” runs through May 23, 2021. This production is being pre-recorded and presented virtually through on-demand streaming, by Washington Stage Guild, Washington, DC. For more information, please click here.