The Shaw Festival's summer repertory season gets a midsummer boost beginning July 7 when five plays enter the mix in Niagara-on-the Lake, Ontario.
The Shaw, considered one of the major North American theatre festivals, is devoted to plays by Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries and dubs its repertoire as including "plays about the beginning of the modern world." Plays from Shaw's lifetime (1856-1950) are staged, although the mandate will change in 2000 to include plays about Shaw or the period.
The July openings include:
* Harley Granville-Barker's The Madras House, opening July 7, about Philip Madras (Blair Williams), who decides to leave a fashion-world career that exploits women for profit and run for political office. This is the sixth play by Granville-Barker presented by Shaw. The playwright actor-director was a friend and colleague of Shaw's who wrote a number of socially-conscious dramas that mixed the personal and historical. Directed by Neil Munro at the Court House Theatre through Sept. 26.
* Waterloo, opening July 8, is Arthur Conan Doyle's one-act tale of a woman (Shauna Black) who cares for elderly uncle (Tony van Bridge), the last surviving hero of the Battle of Waterloo. Directed by Ian Prinsloo for the "Lunchtime" series at the Royal George through July 25. * Charles Vildrac's S.S. Tenacity, opening July 8, the romantic tale of two men (Jason Chesworth and Craig Erikson) who fought in World War I and plan to emigrate from France to Manitoba. When their tramp steamer stops for repairs, they both fall in love with a barmaid (Catherine MacGregor). Directed by Dennis Garnhum at the Court House through Sept. 25.
* Village Wooing, Shaw's romantic one-act comedy about the "Life Force," opening July 9. A travel writer (Neil Barclay) and an ambitious woman (Camille James) meet on a cruise and then again some time later and begin an unlikely courtship. Directed by Nikki Lundmark at the Royal George through Sept. 19.
* Noel Coward's Easy Virtue, opening July 9, attacks social conventions in a story about newlyweds (Kevin Bundy and Goldie Semple) arriving at the husband's family's estate in the 1920s. The in-laws question their new daughter's free behavior and dubious past. Directed by Shaw artistic director Christopher Newton at the Festival Theatre through Oct. 30.
For information about the Shaw Festival, located on the lip of Lake Ontario, 20 miles downstream from Niagara Falls, call (800) 511 SHAW.
-- By Kenneth Jones