FANNY'S FIRST PLAY by George Bernard Shaw, directed by Todd Hammond, with David Schurmann, Severn Thompson, Peter Krantz, Caroline Cave, Matthew Edison, Donna Belleville and Nora McLellan. Presented by the Shaw Festival at the Court House Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake. Runs in rep to September 22. $25-$75. 1-800-511-7429. Rating: NNN
fanny's first play is shaw at his most whimsical. He writes a play, then puts another play within the first, and then uses the frame play to lambaste critics.The Fanny (Severn Thompson) of the title is the daughter of Count O'Dowda (David Schurmann), an indulgent parent whose birthday present to Fanny is a private production of her first play, in which children stomp on the conservative respectability and expectations of their parents. Not surprisingly, Fanny deflates some of her father's own attitudes.
It's not great Shaw, but director Todd Hammond gives some nice buoyancy to the production. Thompson brings delicious warmth and energy to her work, both as Fanny and as Margaret, the character performed by Fanny in the "play." She's nicely matched by Caroline Cave as the lower-class but loving Dora Delaney, the other source of youthful female vigour in the show.
Among the older characters, Nora McLellan brings her comic skills to Mrs. Gilbey, whose son Bobby (Matthew Edison) is promised to Margaret, while Peter Krantz's butler Juggins is tellingly sly. If only the frame tale and the talkative critics didn't go on so long. Even if the Shaw is sending up his reviewers, moderation would have made a tighter piece.