American Players Theatre
5950 Golf Course Road
P.O. Box 819
Spring Green, WI 53588
Box Office: 608-588-2361
Consciousness of what, you ask? Though it is funny (and The Philanderer is most certainly that), the play explores issues as relevant today as they were when Shaw wrote it: feminism, marriage, divorce, sexual dalliances – even the ethical and moral questions of using animals for medical research are examined. Hard to say which is the greater feat: the ongoing relevance, or the fact that Shaw makes it all so entertaining.
The protagonist, Leonard Charteris, is a man who “likes to tell the truth, but doesn’t want to hear it, and who confesses that he “could love any woman as long as she is pretty.” Such “confessions” are the excuses of self-assured men and the bane of self-assured women. Perhaps men and women laugh at The Philanderer for different reasons. But laugh they do.
THE PHILANDERER - Director's Notes
The Philanderer is, as was the case with last season’s Widower’s Houses, one of the three plays, along with Mrs. Warren’s Profession, that Shaw published in 1898 as Plays Unpleasant. These plays are “unpleasant” because their purpose is not to entertain, as the traditional Victorian theater was designed to do, but, rather, to raise consciousness of social problems and to call into question, in the case of Widowers’ Houses, the value of capitalist behavior and, in the case of The Philanderer, the moral issues associated with love and marriage.
If Shaw’s rigid Victorian world were not enough to create moral and ethical conflicts, Shaw created his own in 1884 and 1885, by joining the socialist Fabian Society while also losing his carefully cultivated virginity. And, in 1891 Shaw published his love letter to the world’s Norse modernist in the form of the Quintessence of Ibsenism. By 1898, he had sufficiently recovered from all of these events to be able to use them as material for a play. That play was The Philanderer.
As always with Shaw, the issues that he presents seem as relevant and as controversial today as they were in his own time; feminism, marriage, divorce, sexual dalliances, even the ethical and moral questions of using animals for medical research are examined in this play.
But, when all is said and done, The Philanderer simply demands that we continue to confront the eternal questions concerning true marriage and fiercely debate the pleasures and pains of love and desire. As Shaw observes about our protagonist, Leonard Charteris, he is a man who “likes to tell the truth, but doesn’t want to hear it,” and who confesses that he “could love any woman as long as she is pretty.” Such “confessions” are the excuses of self-assured men and the bane of self-assured women.
Welcome to an evening of, thank goodness, inconsequential philandering.