Prather's set evokes a line from the play spoken by Dr. Harry Trench: "People who live in glass houses have no right to throw stones. But, on my honor, I never knew that my house was a glass one until you pointed it out." This is a play that doesn't let anyone get away clean. Everyone is implicated in the corruption and immorality of slum landlordism, the audience included.
Jeremy Beck (who memorably portrayed a haywire nanobot in Jan Buttram's comedy The President and Her Mistress) plays Trench, a young physician who falls in love while vacationing in Germany. His beloved (played with coy elegance by Talene Monahon) is Blanche Sartorius, who seems the perfect match. The only problem is her rich father (played by the formidable Terry Layman) is concerned Trench's family might object to the marriage. Who could possibly object to a connection to such a wealthy, elegant family?
The answer lies in the Sartorius fortune, and from whence that money is derived. Sartorius, who is far from an attractive figure, sets about to teach the young doctor a lesson in how the world really works. It is part of Shaw's brilliance that he makes Sartorius's arguments as unpalatable as they are logically irrefutable.
Romance is the great complication in this morality tale of greed and real estate, and Blanche reveals herself to be not nearly as simple as she first appears. In this production, I found myself wanting to urge Trench to flee from her over-the-top manipulations, but as Shaw writes in the play's stage directions, "ferocity is erotic" and the good doctor is doomed.
A surprise standout performance comes from Hanna Cheek, who plays a plucky German waitress in the first act and the Sartorius's put-upon parlourmaid in the rest of the play. Cheek milks both roles for all they're worth, but without ever upstaging her fellow performers.
Widowers' Houses is playing until April 2. For more information, check out:
The Actors Company Theatre