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Theater review: 'A Minister's Wife' -- 2.5 stars

A minister's wife

A minister's wife Photo Credit: handout

A Minister’s Wife

2.5 stars

In spite of the enduring success of “My Fair Lady,” the plays of George Bernard Shaw resist being turned into musicals. His words are thrilling enough already and don’t really require the addition of music.

“A Minister’s Wife,” an adaptation of Shaw’s “Candida,” is more of an intimate chamber opera than a musical. While the original three-act play has been tightened into a 95-minute one-act, the love-triangle plot remains the same.

The normally confident Rev. James Morrell (Marc Kudisch), a devoted socialist who spends most of his time making speeches to local organizations, is shaken up when young poet Eugene Marchbanks (Bobby Steggert) informs Morrell that he has consuming feelings for the reverend’s wife Candida (Kate Fry) and intends to challenge him for her love.

Strangely enough, Candida is not fazed by the news and considers Eugene to be thoroughly harmless. However, when Morrell demands that Candida make a definite choice between them, Candida decides to choose the weaker of the two, which turns out to be Morrell.

Composer Joshua Schmidt, who made a splash three seasons ago with his dissonant and avant-garde score for “The Adding Machine,” has written repeated, minimalist-style musical motifs that are seamlessly woven into the dialogue. It’s all very reminiscent of Sondheim’s 1994 musical “Passion.”

The play, directed by Michael Halberstam and with a book by Austin Pendleton, turns out to be a respectable but unnecessary effort. The unmelodic, chord-based score mainly serves to slow down the story and remove the audience from the original text.

It does, however, serve as a fine showcase for the impressive vocal and dramatic abilities of Kudisch and Steggert, each of whom show a boyish charm and an earnest desire for Candida.

Fry, who originated the role of Candida in the musical’s Chicago production, gives an understated performance that fails to convey the irresistible quality that the men around her find so alluring.

If you go: “A Minister’s Wife” plays at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater through June 12. 150 W. 65th St., 212-239-6200, lct.org.
 

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