Shaw’s pointed observations required the reader to ponder socio-economic inequality. The topics for consideration in Pygmalion included the power struggle associated with food, the broad language barrier separating gender and class, and a hint of the burgeoning suffragette movement. Language is front and center in Shaw’s play, occasionally inclusive, most times divisive. Pygmalion was the non-Cinderella version of the sweeping cinematic My Fair Lady. I had seen the 1964 film adaptation on the big screen, juggling a Coca-Cola in one hand and a noisy box of Raisinettes in the other. Starring the talking-not-singing Rex Harrison, and the no-singing-allowed Audrey Hepburn, the movie musical was visually stunning, the repetitive soundtrack memorable. The film garnered 8 Academy awards in 1965, including Best Picture. Those who attempted to watch the movie in lieu of reading Pygmalion did not fare so well on the summer worksheet, or so I’ve been told.
The current Lincoln Center Theater revival of My Fair Lady has earned 10 Tony Award nominations proving that the story still resonates with contemporary audiences. Though Eliza still has a fondness for 60% dark chocolate and the occasional organic strawberry tart, the former flower girl is no shrinking violet. Despite the restrictions imposed by her social status, Eliza finds her feminist voice. Henry Higgins continues to serve as Shaw’s spokesman, asking those in attendance at the Vivian Beaumont to consider the same social inequalities broached by the playwright in Pygmalion. Shaw’s story may be more than one hundred years old, but my guess is it will find its way back to the top of many required reading lists for the summer. Right about now seems to be the perfect time to pore over Shaw’s socially charged commentary. You might want to enhance the experience by arming yourself with a few pints of all-too-short-a-season local strawberries. A little dark chocolate would be loverly, too.