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Dramaworks director, cast make 'Candida' look easy

Oct 14 2010
Hap Erstein | Florida Weekly

... No matter how adventuresome South Florida theater can be, it is hard to recall a professional company willing to tackle the performance demands of Shaw. Until Palm Beach Dramaworks, the 11-year-old troupe with the tag line "Theatre To Think About," whose past forays into the realms of Eugene O'Neill, Henrik Ibsen and Jean-Paul Sartre back up the boast. For "Candida," resident director J. Barry Lewis puts the emphasis on verbal clarity and dexterity, aided considerably by John Leonard Thompson and Kim Cozort as socialist windbag James Morell, a London parson with an affection for his own voice, and his comely wife Candida, Shaw's image of the ideal New Woman of the approaching new century. ... With its emphasis on character, the quality of a production depends squarely on casting. In that sense, Lewis was all but assured of success when he opted for Cozort in the title role. As with so many romantic comedies, we must instantly accept that men fall instantly in love with her, and the radiant Cozort establishes that without effort. Almost as pivotal is Rev. Morell, whom Thompson invests with the right air of pigheaded pomposity, which quickly disintegrates when his marriage is thrown in doubt... In its intimate...quarters, Dramaworks has earned a reputation for its visual elements and scenic designer Michael Amico scores again with his richly detailed study-office in Morell's home. Similarly, Brian O'Keefe's costumes are true to the period and rich in character. ..."Candida" is shorter -- only two hours, including intermission -- and more accessible than most Shaw plays, but it still requires deft direction and acting. At Dramaworks, Lewis and his cast make it look easy.