Posted July 22, 2016 by Editorial Staff in Arts

California Shakespeare Theater presents George Bernard Shaw’s “You Never Can Tell”


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August 10 – September 4

Berkeley, CA – California Shakespeare Theater’s 25th anniversary season at the Bruns Amphitheater returns to the works of George Bernard Shaw with his sharply-observed take on feminism, class distinctions, and romance, You Never Can Tell, directed by Obie award-winner Lisa Peterson, from August 10 through September 4. For tickets and information, contact the Cal Shakes Box Office at 510.548.9666 or visit

One of Shaw’s “Plays Pleasant”, originally written in 1896, You Never Can Tell examines turn-of-the-century social mores and family dynamics in true Shavian style. Mrs. Clandon, a world-famous feminist author and lecturer, returns to a seaside resort after years abroad, bringing along her daughter and disciple Gloria, and her two talkative twins, Dolly and Philip. Through a series of highly-improbable plot twists involving dentistry, lawyers, landlords, and a “perfect waiter” named Walter, families are reunited after a fashion, “thoroughly modern” romance blooms, and everyone learns not to judge people too quickly, for as the title says, “You never can tell.”

“I call myself a Shaw Geek after doing eight or nine of his productions,” says director Lisa Peterson, “and I’ve always loved the challenge of doing his plays in a style that allows you to hear and see them in a new way. Shaw was notorious for disliking things that embodied English society at the time and took every opportunity to infuse his work with his uniquely radical take on the battle of the sexes and the class structures of the day. The play is delightfully funny, with dark tones and complications lightly threaded throughout; it’s definitely a romance that feminists can love.”

Peterson continues, “We’re placing this production in its original period, but taking it out of its traditional drawing room setting and replanting it in a California seaside town; not exactly Santa Cruz, where I grew up, but with elements that are reminiscent of that incredible boardwalk environment. The action of the play occurs all in one day; the daytime costumes will be evocative of salt water taffy colors, with jewel tones infusing the evening dress as the sun sets at the gorgeous Bruns Amphitheater, and lights and music to evoke that magical place and time.”

The cast for You Never Can Tell features Elizabeth Carter (Aurora Theatre’s The Heir Apparent and Wittenburg) as the world-famous social reformer Mrs. Clandon; Anthony Fusco (Cal Shakes’ Much Ado About Nothing, Pygmalion, Blithe Spirit) as her solicitor, Finch McComas; and Danny Scheie (Cal Shakes’ The Mystery of Irma Vep, The Comedy of Errors) as the “perfect waiter,” Walter Boon. Others in the cast include Sabina Zuniga Varela (TheatreWorks’ Water by the Spoonful, OSF’s The Heart of Robin Hood and The Tenth Muse) as Mrs. Clandon’s daughter and protégée, Gloria; Khalia Davis (Aurora’s The Heir Apparent) and Lance Gardner (Cal Shakes’ Fences and Much Ado About Nothing) as the twins, Dolly and Philip; Michael Torres (co-founder, Campo Santo Theater) as Mrs. Clandon’s lost-lost husband, Fergus Crampton; Matthew Baldiga (A.C.T.’s Ah Wilderness! and A Christmas Carol) as the love-sick dentist, Valentine; and Liam Vincent (Cal Shakes’ The Mystery of Irma Vep and The Comedy of Errors) as Bohun, Jo, and Parlor Maid. Baldiga, Carter, Davis, Torres, and Varela are all making their Cal Shakes Main Stage debuts with this production.

The creative team for You Never Can Tell includes set designer Eric Flatmo, whose previous designs for Cal Shakes include this season’s Much Ado About Nothing, American Night, Richard III, Uncle Vanya and Mrs. Warren’s Profession; costume designer Melissa Torchia, designer of Cal Shakes’ 2015 production of King Lear and the world premiere of The Verona Project; lighting designer York Kennedy, whose work has been enjoyed at regional theaters across the country, including the Old Globe, Berkeley Rep, Yale Rep, and Dallas Theatre Center; and sound designer James Paul Prendergast, who designed Cal Shakes’ Romeo and Juliet and King Lear, and has provided numerous soundscapes at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Guthrie, and Seattle Rep, among others.

Director Lisa Peterson returns to Cal Shakes for the first time since her critically-acclaimed production of King Lear in 2007; other productions for the company include All’s Well That Ends Well, The Winter’s Tale, and Love’s Labour’s Lost. She is an internationally-recognized interpreter of the works of George Bernard Shaw, having directed The Philanderer at Canada’s Shaw Festival, and Major Barbara and Mrs. Warren’s Profession at the Guthrie, among others. Other recent projects include Hamlet (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); An Iliad, written by Denis O’Hare (New York Theatre Workshop), The Poor Itch (Public Theater), Shipwrecked and The Model Apartment (Primary Stages), Collected Stories (Manhattan Theatre Club), Mother Courage (Berkeley Rep), and world premieres at South Coast Rep, Arena Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Hartford Stage, and Yale Rep. She is the newly-appointed Associate Director for Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and previously was Resident Director at the Mark Taper Forum for 10 years, and Associate Director for 3 years at the La Jolla Playhouse. Ms. Peterson is the recipient of two Obie Awards, the Lucille Lortel Award, multiple Drama Desk nominations, and an NEA/TCG Directing Fellowship.

George Bernard Shaw (Playwright, 1856-1950) was born in Dublin, the son of a civil servant. He moved to London as a young man (1876), where he established himself as a leading music and theatre critic in the eighties and nineties and became a prominent member of the Fabian Society, for which he composed many pamphlets and speeches. He began his literary career as a novelist; as a fervent advocate of the new theatre of Ibsen he decided to write plays in order to create a forum for considering the moral, political, and economic issues of his day. Shaw’s radical rationalism, his utter disregard of conventions, his keen dialectic interest and verbal wit resonate today in such plays as Mrs. Warren’s Profession (1893); Arms and the Man (1894); The Devil’s Disciple (1897); Candida (1898); You Never Can Tell (1899); Caesar and Cleopatra (1901); Man and Superman, including the famous “Don Juan in Hell” sequence (1903); Major Barbara (1905); Pygmalion (1912), which provided the inspiration for the musical My Fair LadyHeartbreak House (1919); and Saint Joan (1923). He became the first writer to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Academy Award, both for Pygmalion. Shaw’s complete works appeared in thirty-six volumes between 1930 and 1950, the year of his death.

Single tickets for You Never Can Tell range from $20 to $84, with discounts available for seniors, youth, students, military families, persons age 30 and under, and groups. Prices, dates, titles, and artists are subject to change. For information or to charge tickets by phone with VISA, MasterCard, or American Express, call the Cal Shakes Box Office at 510.548.9666. Additional information and online ticketing are available at

California Shakespeare Theater’s 2016 season is supported in part by the generosity of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, the Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation, The Bernard Osher Foundation, and The Shubert Foundation. Corporate partners include BART, City National Bank, John Muir Health, Meyer Sound, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, and San Francisco magazine; production partners for You Never Can Tell are McRoskey Mattress Company and Chevron.

You Never Can Tell Special Events

First Look, Saturday, August 6, 7-9pm, Bruns Amphitheater

Get a First Look into the process of creating the production the week before performances begin. Come together at the Bruns and enjoy the grounds on a Saturday evening, where Artistic Director Eric Ting will moderate a Q&A with the director and select designers, followed by a sneak peek at a technical rehearsal in progress.

Pay-What-You-Can Preview, Wednesday, August 10, 8pm

The first preview of each show is a special Pay-What-You-Can performance. Tickets are first-come, first-served, and available beginning at 6pm day of show only; to purchase, call the Cal Shakes Box Office at 510.548.9666 or visit the Bruns Amphitheater Box Office. Supply is limited.

Opening Night Post-Show Party, August 13, following the 8pm performance
Experience the excitement of the opening night performance and then mingle with the cast and creative team at a complimentary post-show party.

Open-captioned performance, Wednesday, August 17, 7:30pm

Special seating and opening-captioning for hearing-impaired patrons, who can read the text and dialogue on a digital screen. Purchase tickets for section A online or call the Box Office at 510.548.9666. For groups of 10 or more, email or call 510.809.3290.

Meet the Artists, Sundays, August 14 and August 28, following the 4pm performance
Audience members enjoy an opportunity to engage in a lively discussion about the production with cast members following select 4pm matinee performances. Free and open to all.

InSight Matinee, Sunday, August 21, following the 4pm matinee
Explore the world of the play through an informal dialogue with the production’s dramaturg following select 4pm performances. Free and open to all.

Grove Talks, 45 minutes before each performance
Led by resident Grove Talks speakers, these free, informal 20-minute talks are held on site 45 minutes before each and every performance in the ADA-accessible Grove Talk grove, offering invaluable insight into the play and the production.