Globe’s ‘Engaging Shaw’ celebrates the snaring of a confirmed bachelor

By Diana Saenger

John Morogiello’s West Coast premiere of “Engaging Shaw” mixes a bit of historical fact with a fictional romance for a delightful look at the marriage of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. The East Coast production in New York last year drew raves from critics. Henry Wishcamper returns to the Old Globe to direct its production, opening on July 29.

Morogiello’s resume includes “Irish Authors Held Hostage,” “Men and Parts,” “Stonewall’s Bust,” “Gianni Schicchi,” and his new play “Blame It on Beckett,” which will premiere Off Broadway at Abingdon Theatre Company this October.  Morogiello said he became interested in doing something about GBS when he was asked to write a study guide for a Shaw play at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston.

Playwright John Morogiello

“I had to read Shaw’s biography, and when I read the part where he got married, I could not stop laughing,” Morogiello said. “It was funny the way he kept fighting it and fighting it, and eventually, she wore him down so all he could do was marry her.”

It all went something like this … Wealthy heiress Charlotte Payne-Townshend has her sights on Shaw, a confirmed bachelor, philanderer and rumored to be unromantic as well. When Charlotte and Shaw become acquainted with Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Charlotte finds new ways to pursue her goal.

Writing his play with the same structure of Shaw’s plays, Morogiello said he knew he would have only four characters telling his story.

“Shaw, and his best friends Sidney and Beatrice Webb, are based on real people,” he said. “I used their letters to help me get their voices and who they were. I had to create all of Charlotte, as her estate wouldn’t cooperate with me, so she’s totally made up.”

The Webbs, Morogiello explained, were founders of the Fabian Society in England. It was a socialist organization based on a democratic process. “When I came across an essay that Sidney Webb wrote on how to get the world to accept socialism, I realized that his idea was the exact same tactic Charlotte used to get Shaw to marry her. I think the story works well.

Rod Brogan (George Bernard Shaw) and Angela Pierce (Charlotte Payne-Townshend) star in ‘Engaging Shaw’ at The Old Globe Theatre. Photo Sandy Huffaker.

“When The International Shaw Society saw it in New York, a member said it was the best Shaw play he’d seen in 20 years and he (Shaw) didn’t even write it!”

Morogiello said he’s excited to work with director Wishcamper (“The Mystery of Irma Vep,” “Spirit Control,” Graceland,” “Animal Crackers,” Talking Pictures”) and thinks his casting is terrific.

Rod Brogan plays Shaw. He received his M.F.A. from The Old Globe/University of San Diego Graduate Theatre Program and has appeared on Broadway in “Mauritius,” the National Tour of “Doubt,” and Off Broadway in “Treasure Island,” among others. Angela Pierce portrays Charlotte. Her Broadway credits include “The Norman Conquests,” “Heartbreak House,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and many Off Broadway credits.

“Rod is doing a great job in giving us a sense of what Shaw was really like,” Morogiello said. “Rod and Angela have great chemistry together. She’s extraordinarily sensitive and very vulnerable and great at showing the growth of her character. Michael Warner (“Missed Connections”) and Natalie Gold (“Twelfth Night”) are married in real life and wonderful as the Webbs. It’s really fun to watch them together. Michael and Natalie are the Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward of my play.”

If you go

What: ‘Engaging Shaw’

When: Matinees, evenings July 29–Sept. 4

Where: Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park

Tickets: $29-67

Box Office: (619) 23-GLOBE


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Posted by Staff on Jul 26, 2011. Filed under A & E, Theater. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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