Caltech Playreaders 66th Season: "The Cassilis Engagement" by St. John Hankin
Directed by Lynne McGrath
In a 1907 comedy of British upper-crust manners, combining the wit of Oscar Wilde and the social satire of Bernard Shaw, an aristocratic widow's only son is bent on making a marital misalliance. His beloved is admittedly working class, albeit with a finishing school education, and in due course the young woman and her uneducated, ambitious mother are invited to the family estate. The visit has unpredictable and highly entertaining results. St. John Hankin did not like conventional endings, so instead begins the play's action where most such works end, with the couple's engagement. Ah, but where does it go from there?
Originally produced by The Stage Society and opening at London's Imperial Theatre on February 10, 1907, St.John Hanken's The Cassilis Engagement is an Edwardian comedy, very much in the style of Oscar Wilde (wit) and George Bernard Shaw (social satire). Hanken was writing in a period when he and contemporaries Harley Granville-Barker and John Galsworthy were trying to create plays that had some substance, often taking a critical look at the society and politics of their time. No surprise then that many of the play's apparently stock characters have more to them than appears on the surface, secrets and hidden depths. Hanken's early death was described as "a public calamity" by Shaw, and the loss of the talent evidenced in this play was sincerely mourned by the English theatre world.
Admission is $3.00 for members of the Caltech Women's Club; $4.00 for all others. Light refreshments will be served after the reading.
To dine at the Athenaeum beforehand, call (626) 395-8204 for reservations. Plan to be seated by 5:30. You are welcome to join the Playreaders table.