Tomorrow, June 24th, Gingold Theatrical Group is presenting a staged reading of George Bernard Shaw's early play The Philanderer, and I'll be speaking on a panel afterward, discussing the show.
Shaw wrote two endings for the play, and I'm told GTG will be performing his original final act. This act remained in manuscript, unpublished for many years, and was never performed until 1991. Taking place years after the first two acts, it shows the consequences for two characters who married unadvisedly and now must seek a divorce in South Dakota.
Shaw's friend Lady Colin Campbell read this ending and hated it. (She actually said it "ought to be put into the fire.") Campbell suggested that Shaw write a new final act, which he did, and it was that act which was published and performed throughout most of the play's stage history. In it, we see the beginning of that marriage which Shaw ended in South Dakota in his original draft.
At the risk of giving spoilers to those who haven't read the play, I'll tell you that the ill-fated marriage is between Julia, who is described as a "dark, tragic looking woman" and the practical, vivisecting Dr. Paramore. (Shaw loathed vivisection, and he generally had nothing nice to say about medical doctors like Paramore.) The play is obsessed with theatricality, and no one in it is more theatrical than Julia. Shaw even gives her the stage direction "with theatrical pathos" at one point.
When Julia decides to marry Dr. Paramore--and even shakes hands with her formal rival Grace--the play seems to be moving in the direction of a traditional comic ending. Grace knows better and says: "They think this a happy ending, Julia, these men: our lords and masters!" It is nothing of the sort. When Julia collapses at the end of the play, the titular philanderer is "amused and untouched" according to Shaw's stage directions. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast "look at Julia with concern, and even a little awe, feeling for the first time the presence of a keen sorrow."