Mischievous twins, an estranged father and a blossoming romance between two opposite people— these are all things to be discovered in the St. Olaf College Theater Department’s hilarious production of “You Never Can Tell.” In this story of human identity and family relationships, the audience will be prompted to consider one’s own self and ideology as they learn from the interactions of the characters on stage.
“You Never Can Tell” is a four-act play written by George Bernard Shaw and directed by Michelle Cowin Gibbs. The play is set in the 1950s at a seafront resort on the coast of Torbay in Devon, England, U.K.
In this romantic comedy, Mrs. Clandon has just returned to England with her three children, Dolly, Phillip and Gloria after a long stay in Madeira. In Torbay, Dolly and Philip meet a penniless dentist by the name of Valentine.
The children tell Valentine how the long to find their long-lost father and invite Valentine to dinner. Valentine introduces the Clandons to his crabby landlord Mr. Crampton, who, in a sheer twist of events, turns out to be the children’s father. This new development, as well as Valentine becoming enamored by Gloria, throws the family into hilarious chaos.
“In this story of human identity and family relationships, the audience will be prompted to consider one’s own self and ideology.” – Laras Kettner ’21
The play boasts a variety of colorful characters. Miss Dolly Clandon, played by Izzy Black-Johnston ’21, has the perfect amount of sassiness and innocence as she struts around the stage, a cigarette between her fingers. Always at her side is her devious twin Mr. Phillip Clandon, who Seth Retzlaff ’22 splendidly portrays. Together, the two of them are always up to no good, urging the audience to brace themselves for whatever trouble they are about to cause.
Elijah Leer ’22 plays a charming Mr. Valentine and is delightfully able to capture that immediate infatuation he feels for Gloria. Ms. Gloria Clandon, played by Aerin O’Malley ’21, with her “sweet as honey” Mid/Trans-Atlantic accent asserts her status as a strong and independent woman of the age.
Matthew Humason ’21 plays Mr. Crampton. Humason has excellent character development as he goes from his stoic expression on the dentist’s seat to rage and shock when he discovers how disobedient his children are. Mrs. Lanfrey Clandon, played by Bianca Davis ’21, wonderfully depicts a conflicted woman who’s never been in love and also wants to protect her children. Parker Love ’22 as Mr. Finch McComas must also be applauded for his great comedic timing.
Another important character is Mr. Walter Boon played by Alice Langby ’21. A kind waiter, who teaches the audience that politeness is not dead, brings the ensemble back to reality with his delivery of the line “You never can tell, sir.” There is a beautiful moment when Mr. Walter Boon breaks his usual character to embrace his now powerful son, Mr. Walter Bohun played by Abigail St. John ’21.
The entire ensemble had great interactions with each other, with many characters developing a sea-breezy attitude. Indeed, emotions and identities seemed to change just as violently as waves crashing against the shore. Valentine and Gloria were an ensemble that displayed terrific chemistry with each other. It was soon clear that Gloria would wear the pants in the relationship.
The set design was effective, consisting primarily of a room with tall pillars and a grand entrance in the middle. Props like colorful lanterns were periodically added to depict the setting of a party or a sofa to portray a living room.
Scene changes were also completed effectively, and Tyler Krohn’s ’21 voice as Queen Elizabeth II/BBC News Reporter was entertaining to hear. It is also important to note that every member of the ensemble had an accent – whether British, or American (Mid/Trans-Atlantic). Although there were moments where some characters could have projected their voices more clearly, all of the characters committed to their accents wholeheartedly, which added an engaging element for the audience.
“You Never Can Tell” is a fascinating comedy that allows the audience to not only be captivated by the comedic errors of the characters on stage but to think about their own beliefs and identities.