At the heart of George Bernard Shaw’s warm and witty play Candida, now playing at the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth, is a clergyman’s spouse who is truly loved by everyone. But when one passionate young poet declares his obsessive love with her, it sparks a connubial crisis that forms the basis for one of Shaw’s most memorable pieces, a reflection on Victorian notions of love and marriage as relevant today as when it was first written.
Starring in Candida is Ottawa-raised Dana Fradkin in a performance praised by the Capital Critics Circle as “all charm and warmth” in a show that “as directed by Laurel Smith is breezy and fast moving.” With a full-stage set and mural that depicts Candida’s northeast London home and neighbourhood, the play has also been praised as a visual delight thanks to Renate Seiler’s costumes, Roger Schultz’s set, and lighting by Wesley McKenzie.
Fradkin is a busy theatre, film, television, and stunt performer (she can be seen in recent work including including Reign, Fatal Vows, Haphead, Cold Blood, Crimes of Passion, Unleashed, Out There with Melissa DiMarco, Satisfaction, and Little Phoenix and the Reign of Fists) who discovered acting in grade 8 “when I was desperate not go to the high school in my neighbourhood. I didn’t have a lot of other choices except the high school of performing arts (Ottawa’s Canterbury). I didn’t have any artistic skills but I was determined to get in. The drama program looked fun, so I started getting into drama classes and then auditioned.”
Once accepted, she set her course for a performing arts career. Her first role was playing the dog and crocodile in the musical Peter Pan with JCC Theatreworks at Centrepoint Theatre. “It was thrilling,” Fradkin recalls with a laugh, “except for that one time when I couldn’t see through the crocodile mask and I walked into the wall and then almost off the stage.”
Following intensive training at Toronto’s George Brown Theatre School, Fradkin’s first professional role was as Queen Jadis in The Magician Nephew at Stage West Mississauga.
As someone who works in numerous media, Fradkin says there is nothing quite like the experience of live theatre. “The journey of a stage show is irreplaceable and the collaboration of theatre is so unique,” she says. “Film acting is much more separate from the big picture. I love film, though, because it demands that you are truly honest and genuine in your work. My film work has definitely made me grow as an actor and has made my stage work much more honest and specific.”
Fradkin makes her own short films, where “putting everything together is a great challenge and it’s great to have a final product of your work. I miss that in theatre. Once it’s done, it’s gone. That always makes me sad.”
Theatre fans who venture into Ottawa will recall Fradkin’s turn last summer as Smeraldina in Odyssey Theatre’s The Servant of Two Masters, one of her favourite roles. “I loved playing that character, full of flirtation and also a feminist: such an absolute joy. I also loved playing Maryke, the lead in the short film I wrote, Satisfaction. I wrote it because I felt her journey and it was so thrilling to be able to play it out.”
Fradkin says she loves playing Candida because of “her true confidence, sense of play and deep love for people in her life. It feels great to play that. She loves so deeply, and my challenge in the next few weeks is to continue to open my heart, to feel all her emotions deeper and deeper everyday.”
It’s a challenge well met, given the reactions of audiences who are leaving the theatre with big smiles on their faces. “I have the privilege of being at the door every time the show ends and receiving feedback, and Candida is one of those shows where people feel renewed and refreshed, given a shot of hope and optimism, which is in such short supply these days,” says Associate Producer Matthew Behrens.
Tickets to Candida, which runs until August 13, are available by calling 1-877-283-1283 or visiting www.classictheatre.ca. The final show of the Festival’s season, the mystery thriller I’ll Be Back before Midnight, opens August 18 and runs until September 10. The theatrical walking plays – A Nation Lost and Found, and The Beat Goes On – continue to run mornings and evenings until August 27 as well.