There are two excellent reasons to see Remy Bumppo’s staging of George Bernard Shaw’s You Never Can Tell: Alex Weisman and C. Jaye Miller. Weisman and Miller play the precocious twins Philip and Dolly. The two young actors have almost enough comic energy and youthful panache to carry the entire show themselves. Unfortunately, the duo is only about a fifth of the cast. When Philip and Dolly are off stage, Shaw’s dialogue becomes more dry discourse—class, marriage, capitalism and feminism—than dramatic story.
As for the story, Philip and Dolly are the spirited young adult twins of Mrs. Clandon (Elaine Rivkin, a regal presence), a progressive single parent in 1890s England. Along with eldest daughter Gloria, the Clandons are on holiday at a seaside resort when Dolly strikes up a friendship with Valentine (Greg Matthew Anderson), the impoverished dentist who has just pulled out her tooth. Wouldn’t you know it, Valentine’s landlord, Mr. Crampton (Doug Hendel), turns out to be Dolly and Philip’s long-absent father. A plethora of witty bon mots ensue as father, children, and dentist attempt to navigate treacherous familial and romantic waters.
Unfortunately, Shaw’s playful, ridiculous plot often falls flat under Shawn Douglass’s somewhat static direction. There’s not much movement leaving the audience to watch two-hour long clever conversation. To bring life to such a production needs dynamism, and this staging lacks it.
You Never Can Tell continues through Jan. 6 at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. For information, remybumppo.org.
Catey Sullivan is Chicago’s contributing theater critic.
Photograph: Courtesy of Remy Bumppo Theatre