I New York! My affection for the City is multifaceted and is shaped by the knowledge that with an estimated population of 8.5 million people, one can find a minimum of 150 like-minded individuals on any interest or need. Monday night I enjoyed the fruits of one such group, The Gingold Theatrical Group. The GTG presents the works of George Bernard Shaw as a "platform to entertain, enlighten and enrich." Shaw was an Irish playwright and critic who wrote satirically about the leading political issues of his day.
GTG as Visiting Presenters at Symphony Space -home to my favorite, Selected Shorts-hosted a one night only reading of Shaw's play, Geneva. I must first say that I knew very little about Shaw before attending last night's performance. I did know he wrote the play Pygmalion that was the bases for the movie My Fair Lady. I loved the movie and who wouldn't with Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison in the title roles. The film won 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. I was twelve and in love with the music, particularly The Rain in Spain but embarrassingly I was oblivious to the irony and political overtones of the musical.
To be oblivious Monday night was impossible to anyone sitting up right and breathing. The evening opened with GTG's Creative Director, David Staller, giving an engaging introduction to Shaw and his play. Geneva was fast paced, witty and frightening in the context of what we know today about World War II. Geneva shines a light on the dictators who were democratically placed in a position of power and explores how Fascism grabbed hold of a people. Shaw wittily remarked that "Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve" and uses humor and wit to look at world crisis in the making.
After the performance, half the audience remained in place to take part in a "Talk Back" hosted by Staller with Irish Consul General to New York, Barbara Jones and Professor Andrew M. Flescher joining him on stage. The exhilarating conversation that followed touched upon Shaw's politics, Donald Trump and the competency and diligence of the European Commission bureaucrats. (Ms. Jones steadfastly maintained that individuals who work for the EC are caring and capable. I liked Ms. Jones from the get go because of her measured responses and wonderful accent but liked her even more after her straightforward defense of the EC bureaucrats. I am weary of all the negative speech from U.S. politicians during this election season and it was just plain nice to hear a politician say a kind word about another person.)
But I digress, two of the actors, Jay O. Sanders and Christine Pedi, - joined the audience for the discussion- giving their take on Shaw and the play as performers and actors. I was completely enthralled as Sanders described how he would visually support Shaw's words if he were to direct a full-blown production. I was reminded there are working actors in New York City theatre that love his or her work and continually strive to elevate the craft.
Shaw's words have lingered long after the walk home from the theater. I will definitely be exploring more of Shaw's work and checking out additional performances by the GTG. If you live here or are heading to New York City over the next couple of months then I encourage you to check out GTG and Symphony Spaces. Broadway is wonderful but if you venture out beyond Time Square and 42nd Street, you may find yourself surrounded by ardent enthusiasts who will give you a glimpse of the true magic of theatre.