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The Actors Company Theatre and Gingold Theatrical Group Present Shaw's "Widowers’ Houses" at the Beckett Theatre
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The Actors Company Theatre and Gingold Theatrical Group Present Shaw's "Widowers’ Houses" at the Beckett Theatre

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TACT/The Actors Company Theatre

Gingold Theatrical Group

Widowers’ Houses

By George Bernard Shaw

Directed by David Staller

At the
Beckett Theatre
(Theatre Row Website)
410 West 42nd Street

Jeremy Beck, Hanna Cheek, Jonathan Hadley
Terry Layman, Talene Monahon, John Plumpis

Set Design: Brian Prather
Light Design: Peter West
Sound Design: Toby Jaguar Algya
Costume Design: Barbara A. Bell
Publicist: Matt Ross
Props: Lyzta Colon
Production Stage Manager: Kelly Burns
Production Manager: Cate Di Giralomo
Casting: Judy Bowman
TACT Managing Director: Jonathan Weber
Advertising: Hofstetter + Partners

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 30, 2016 Matinee

The Actors Company Theatre (TACT) and Gingold Theatrical Group (GTG) have teamed up for a lovely production of George Bernard Shaw’s Widowers’ Houses at the Beckett Theatre. This play was delightful on today’s matinee. David Staller, Founding Artistic Director of GTG, formed the theater group to “provide …a forum for reflection and discussion of universal rights issues”. TACT’s Artistic Director is Scott Alan Evans, and his group “reveals, reclaims, and reimagines great plays of literary merit.”

Widowers’ Houses, Shaw’s 1892 first play in his repertory, opens with Dr. Harry Trench (Jeremy Beck) and his friend, William De Burgh Cokane (Jonathan Hadley), dining at leisure in a German hotel café on the Rhine, with a bubbly waitress on hand (Hanna Cheek). While the two young British travelers relax with drinks and repartee, a much wealthier, middle-aged Sartorius (Terry Layman) and his well-heeled daughter, Blanche (Talene Monahon), join Trench and Cokane, just long enough for the aspiring Trench and the flirtatious Blanche to fall for each other at first sight. Once back in Sartorius’ drawing room in London, the trust fund heir, Trench, learns that his prospective father-in-law is a landlord for rooms for widowers and such, located in slums, and that Sartorius treats his desperate tenants poorly. In fact, he forces his rent collector, Lickcheese (John Plumpis), to wriggle every coin from their empty pockets, by whatever means necessary. But, Lickcheese is let go, for his reluctance to be so cruel.

Trench is high-minded and demands that Blanche renounce her inheritance, as they can make do with his trust and small earnings from his startup medical practice. Blanche balks and a breakup ensues, until Trench learns more about the source of his own trust income. A plan is drawn, improving everyone’s fate. A remarkable moment occurs when Mr. Plumpis, as the transformed Lickcheese, in a later scene, is a completely new character, as he turns the tables in his fine, town hat and suit. Each character becomes introspective, to a degree, while the wily Blanche just wants what she wants. The moral conflict of achieving financial comfort through the tragic pain of strangers is handled here in conversational banter and self-rationalizations, while smoking a pipe or pouring a drink. The cost of change for the worse is, by comparison to change for the better, too great a sacrifice. High-mindedness is soothed with a brandy.

David Staller has directed to entertain and create fluidity between scenes. The actors are filled with outsized personas, and today’s audience was quite enthused. Mr. Beck was a natural as Trench, the initially, altruistic doctor in love with a strong-willed, fine lady. As Cokane, Mr. Hadley was the quick-witted cynic, an accomplice in richly hued leisure pursuits. Ms. Monahon, as Blanche, the spoiled, attractive daughter who wants to be on the arm of Dr. Trench, was impetuous and perturbed, conniving and charming, at once. Mr. Layman, as Sartorius, the self-made, British aristocrat, never broke character, with his pocket scarf, pocket watch, and three-piece suit immaculately in order. Ms. Cheek, as both the German hotel waitress and Annie, the Sartorius parlourmaid, used gesture, wit, and pathos to expand her roles. And, Mr. Plumpis was outstanding as Lickcheese, exuding two different lifestyles and levels of confidence. Brian Prather’s set design was stylish but not overwhelming for this small stage. Barbara A. Bell’s costumes transported us to another era, on the Rhine and in London. Kudos to TACT and GTG, and kudos to George Bernard Shaw.

Jonathan Hadley, Terry Layman, and Talene Monahon
in Shaw's "Widowers' Houses"
Courtesy of Marielle Solan

Talene Monahon and Jeremy Beck
in Shaw's "Widowers' Houses"
Courtesy of Marielle Solan

Jeremy Beck and John Plumpis
in Shaw's "Widowers' Houses"
Courtesy of Marielle Solan

Hanna Cheek and Talene Monahon
in Shaw's "Widowers' Houses"
Courtesy of Marielle Solan

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at