Wednesday August 23rd 2017

“You Never Can Tell”

George Bernard Shaw was a genius and he had a sense of humor. Most people do not think of him as a comedy writer. After viewing “The Importance of Being Earnest”, Oscar Wilde’s comic tour de force, he bet Wilde that he could write a better and even funnier show. Wilde said it couldn’t be done. Well it could and Remy Bumppo Theatre Company has the production on stage now to prove it, “You Never Can Tell” smoothly directed by Shawn Douglass on a typically English seaside set by Timothy Mann. The story is about a woman who is by all standards one of society’s first women’s lib characters, Mrs. Clandon ( the perfect Elaine Rivkin) and her three children , the eldest Gloria ( the adorable Eliza Stoughton), and the younger Dolly ( the delightful C.Jaye Miller) and her twin brother, Philip ( another brilliant portrayal by Alex Weisman) who are back in England, at a seaside resort town to resolve some issues of the past.

It seems that Mrs.  Clandon, left her husband with her children and placed herself in self exile to accomplish her work with women’s rights. Now she is back in the same town with her husband who uses the last name Crampton( a solid performance by Doug Hendel), a noteworthy, wealth character that is well known in the town. None of the children know that this man is their father and as the story unfolds, we the audience find out just as they do. The family gets together ue to a dental situation at the very onset of the play. Dolly is having a tooth pulled by a young dentists, one who is starving, Valentine ( Craig Matthew Anderson in one of the campiest performances of the year) , whose landlord is Crampton. Crampton also has a tooth problem and the twins invite both to join them for lunch.                                                        


What happens from this scene is love at first sight ( or might it be lust) between Gloria and Valentine, and when they all meet for lunch with their old solicitor McComas ( deftly handled by Peter A Davis) all the zaniness begins.  The chain of events includes new loves, old loves, identities confused, truths discovered and in general, general mayhem. At the hotel, there is a waiter of note, who the twins have named William ( they thought he looked like a statue of Shakespeare) who kind of puts all the pieces together and keeps the characters from harming each other. William is brought to life by Chicago’s finest “farce” actor, Dale Benson. Many theater audiences have laughed their heads off over his many, many years of doing comedy on our stages and this role, one of the main pieces of the puzzle in the story, proves just how funny he is.

It also turns out that he has a son who he is not close to. His son, a lawyer ends up being brought in to mediate a solution to the custody of the twins and he takes over qite well in dueling with McComas and others. As the mediation progresses, we find that William and his son begin to reunite as do the others in the play.Understand that this is English “drawing room” comedy, so there is quite a bit of talking and over the 2 1/2 hour production we get as many laughs as most can handle. Emily Waecker’s costumes are very period and divinely so, Lee Fiskness has designed lighting that removes us from the second floor of The Greenhouse Theater Center on Lincoln Avenue to a seaside resort and Nick Gajary’s sound with some very quaint music and the many outstanding props assembled by Julie Eberhardt are the icing on the cake. There is also a little dancing with divine choreography by Darrin French.

There are great many problems with the characters that Shaw created for his little wager and it is hard to keep track without a scorecard, but thanks to this noble cast, we find ourselves knowing each of them and rooting for some. Can it all work out for the better? For all concerned? Well, you never can tell! But, if you are seeking to have some fun and laughs, you can tell by attending “You Never Can Tell” which will run at The greenhouse Theater Center located at 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue through January 6th. Perfect  for the holidays. The performance schedule is:

Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and  Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

Additional matinees are 11/29 and 12/13 at 2:30 p.m. (Thursdays) and Saturdays 12/6 *and 12/29

Tickets range from $42.50-$52.50  * $57.50 for the special “Between the lines” performance

Student tickets are 415 except for Between The Lines and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 773-404-7336 or online at

Parking is available ( discounted) at the old Children’s Hospital on Lincoln Avenue and of course there is some metered and street parking. Lots of dining in the area. For those who love sushi ( quick and easy with fast service) we love  Nan’s , just up the street at 2360. Everything is delish ( try the Godzilla Roll- to die for) and they have a full Chinese menu as well so all of you can enjoy what you like.

To see what others say about this production, which should garner a number of JEFF nominations, go to, click on review round-up and then click onto “You Never Can Tell”                                                                                          

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