The University of Utah Theatre Department is presenting another classic play to Salt Lake City audiences. George Bernard Shaw’s play “You Never Can Tell” portrays the misadventures of a feminist author, Mrs. Clandon, and her three children in a seaside town. This farce juggles mistaken identities, unexpected romance and witty social commentary into one hilarious night of comedy. According to director Alexandra Harbold, “In his seaside comedy, Shaw speaks to the shifting ideas, ideals, questions of generations and how time can render parents and children mysteries to one another as they see the world through differing lenses.”
“You Never Can Tell” debuted in 1897, but Harbold believes the play remains relevant and entertaining for audiences today. Last week, a headline in the Irish Times stated, “The world has never needed George Bernard Shaw more.” This article went on to argue, “The most important aspect of his influence is not what Shaw taught people to think but how he taught them to think.”
For Harbold, it’s Shaw’s ability to provoke new thought that makes “You Never Can Tell” an enduring and exciting play. She said, “’You Never Can Tell’ feels radical in its hopefulness. It’s an invitation to question your assumptions and to change your mind. The characters in Shaw’s play go from certainty to not knowing quite what they think, and in that threshold state something new is possible.”
That same spirit of possibility has defined Harbold’s creative process. “Everyone on the cast, creative team, and crew has worked to animate this world with an attention to detail that makes Shaw’s play come alive for me,” Harbold said. She hopes audiences get “sunshine, mischief, and moments of unexpected hope and tenderness” out of her production. But she also hopes that — like the characters in the play — the audience considers that something new is possible.
“You Never Can Tell” previews Nov. 8 and 9, and runs Nov. 10-19 at 7:30 p.m., with matinees on Nov. 12, 18, and 19 at 2 p.m. Performances are located at the Babcock Theater on the lower level of Pioneer Memorial Theater. Tickets are free with a U student ID. Visit theatre.utah.edu for more information.