‘Misalliance’ dazzles theatergoers


Andrew Walker

Nathan Ray ’20, plays the character of Joey Percival, and Emma Moreno ’17, plays Hypatia Tarleton in the theatre studies production of “Misalliance” by George Bernard Shaw. “Misalliance” is presented in celebration of the life of Devin Seaverson. // Photo by Andrew Walker/Guilfordian

“I don’t want to be good, and I don’t want to be bad,” says Hypatia Tarleton, the character senior Emma Moreno portrays in the Guilford College Theatre Studies Department production of “Misalliance.”

“I just don’t want to be bothered about either good or bad. I want to be an active verb.”

These words strike at the heart of George Bernard Shaw’s cerebral and comedic 1910 play, which deals with themes such as gender politics, attraction, economic class, paternalism and freedom.

“George Bernard Shaw is very much about exposing societal flaws,” said sophomore Max Shumate, stage manager for “Misalliance.” “He’s all about how society is built for some people and shoves some people out. He’s very aware that women were treated very unfairly in these times, and he was all about exposing that.”

Shaw, who was born in Dublin, Ireland, wrote dramatic works from the 1880s until he died in 1950. Though he penned “Misalliance” before World War I, Guilford’s production takes place in the Roaring 20s, drawing from a strong period of social movements like first wave feminism and communism.

The play’s characters give sense to societal tensions in Great Britain at the time.

“I play Lina Szczepanowska,” said senior Tarilabo Koripamo. “She is Polish. She’s about 40 years old and very different from the rest of the characters. (She’s) ahead of her time if that makes any sense. She’s a risk-taker. She doesn’t like to be owned.

“I don’t think she realizes this, but I think, personally, that she steps around the idea of feminism in the 1920s. I think that she’s not aware of feminism. I think she’s just a strong character by herself, for herself.”

Whereas Koripamo’s character challenges gender norms in early 20th century Britain, first-year Nathan Ray’s character plays more of a passive and accepting role in aristocratic society.

“I’m playing Joseph Percival,” said Ray. “He’s a 28-year-old British pilot, and he’s the son of three fathers.

“Joseph Percival, or Joey, which is his nickname, is really complicated in that he was brought up to be (a) very straight-laced, very by the book, follow the rules, we need order in society (kind of man).”

Technically, the artistic and production staff have put a lot of effort into the show’s set, lighting and sound design. Though audiences do not always recognize the back-end work that goes into theater productions, plays like “Misalliance” would be impossible without it.

Shumate, for example, helps coordinate actions in the booth with what happens on stage.

“I basically reread the play every night,” said Shumate. “While they’re acting, I’m up in the booth reading it and following along. When the actors say the line that cues a certain thing, I have to call it right at the same moment.”

The job entails a lot of pressure.

“I tell the light board (operator) and the soundboard (operator) when to hit go,” said Shumate. “If I don’t do that, then none of the lights or the sounds change, which is actually really stressful.”

Partway through the play, audience members witness the actors, actresses and effects crew work in lightning-quick harmony. For the remainder of “Misalliance,” the event spurs the Tarletons and their guests to reconcile their ideas and reality.

“This family is extremely wealthy,” said Shumate. “They’re in the upper-middle class in England, and they’re very ‘we don’t really care about anyone except ourselves’ because they don’t really have a reason to.”

In a play that heavily revolves around self-determination, Szczepanowska and Hypatia are especially strong characters. It is no accident that Koripamo and Moreno performed these roles for their senior theses.

“You always have to do research,” said Koripamo. “But when it’s your senior thesis, it’s almost like your baby. You have to nurture it. This is a project that I have been working on for about nine months now since last summer.

“There’s a lot of stuff that goes into the background of the play itself before I can even start going into research for my own character.”

In addition to the struggle of a thesis project, Koripamo, who grew up in Nigeria, also had to deal with cultural barriers when approaching the role of Szczepanowska.

“You do extensive research and for me because I am an international student, and I primarily didn’t grow up around the place that the American theater world is used to,” said Koripamo. “I have to do extra work just to catch up.”

“Misalliance” premiered on April 21 in Sternberger Auditorium. The cast and crew have three more shows under their belt since then.

Students interested in viewing the play, which lasts close to two hours, have two more chances to see it. On April 28 and 29, there will be performances at 8 p.m. Tickets go on sale an hour before showtime in Founders Hall and are $5 for students who bring their IDs. The April 28 showing will be interpreted in American Sign Language.