Oct. 25—Nov. 18 $10–$50
Washington Stage Guild at Undercroft Theatre
900 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC
(240) 582-0050
Arena Stage's production of My Fair Lady will have better millinery and sets, of course, but if all you want is a match of wits articulated in Received Pronunciation, the Washington Stage Guild’s production of Pygmalion, the play on which My Fair Lady is based, will certainly do. In fact, the cast speaks in more authentic English, Scottish, and Cockney accents than their better-paid peers currently performing War Horse at the Kennedy Center. The nine actors are mostly Guild vets, and they perform Pygmalion like it’s the Shaw show they’ve been wanting to do all their lives. Steven Carpenter stars as Professor Henry Higgins and he manages to pull off the role without pretense, alternatively annoying and amusing the audience. The sets (by Kirk Kristoblas) are tastefully simple and the costumes, props, and furniture pass for period appointments. As Eliza Doolittle, Rana Kay doesn’t convey the transformation to society lady convincingly enough to be the show’s star. In the first scene, when she badgers bystanders to buy violets, her bottom lip juts out impertinently, as if she’s teething on the English language and in the final moments, when creation and creator argue over what will become of her now, their debate quickly tires. But really, Shaw might be partly to blame. He said himself that the play needs a sequel. And while that’s not an option, there’s always the musical version. (RJR)

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