A Minister's Wife
In Shaw’s Candida, we hear a great deal about the pure and lovely title character before we meet her, and even then we hear little of substance from her until the play’s climax. The action is propelled by the qualities projected onto Candida by those around her; she unwittingly finds herself the object of a petty tug-of-war between her ridiculously pious preacher husband and a young whelp of a poet who thinks he loves her.
Adapter Pendleton has aptly described Shaw’s take on marital fidelity as a fugue, making Schmidt a sensible candidate to set it to music. While less angular and more prone to swooning than his Adding Machine score, Schmidt’s work here displays the same facility with contrapuntal melodies; Wife’s score isn’t composed of songs so much as motifs that bounce off one another, with Tranen’s lyrics recurring as well (a secretary’s jealous complaint about Candida, for instance, becomes a refrain).
Halberstam’s production is handsome if somewhat static (the cast may wear grooves into Brian Sidney Bembridge’s floor trodding the same paths among declamatory points A, B and C). As James, Gudahl puts his usual mannerisms to good effect, reduced to blubbering by the merest hint of doubt about his wife’s affections; Schmuckler matches Shaw’s physical description of Marchbanks to a T and sings gorgeously, but brings an odd note of menace with his awkwardness. Fry, though, captivates. In a deliciously shrewd, warm, gorgeously sung turn as Candida, she’s a worthy center of attention.