George Bernard Shaw’s first play, Widowers’ Houses, was partly inspired by Shaw’s experience working as a rent-collector for a London slumlord. The play is a comic romance, but also a sermon on abusive landlords and tenants’ rights. Widowers’ Houses earned Shaw plenty of boos at its premiere in 1892. While Shaw blames the slumlord Mr. Sartorius (who gets the best lines in the play) for the dangerous and dirty housing he provides to the poor, he also condemns the wealthy theater goers in the audience and city laws for their complicity. Dan Hoyle, famous for his solo shows Tings Dey Happen and The Real Americans, stars as Harry Trench, a doctor torn between love for his fiancee Blanche Sartorius (Megan Trout), and revulsion at the source of her income, her father’s slum empire.
“It’s a story about what happens,” Hoyle told me recently, “when you find out that the people you love have acquired their money through unjust means. And how do you reconcile with that. So really it’s about reconciling with capitalism.”
Details for Widowers’ Houses Jan. 26- March 4 at the Aurora Theatre in Berkeley are here.