Almost forgotten today, this amusing Shaw play from the same year he won an Oscar for his screenplay for PYGMALION lacks something in structure - not a lot actually happens when good King Charles (II) and half his court (three mistresses and the more confrontational brother fated to succeed him as the unlucky James II) drop in uninvited on Sir Isaac Newton's home - but it more than makes up for it in the almost nonstop laughter of the first two acts of miscommunication, insult humor and crossed ideologies. There's also the leather clad founder of the Quaker movement (unable NOT to be a "Friend" even to the notorious but accommodating actress "friend" of the King, Nell Gwen) and Newton's protective housekeeper for good measure.
Ironically, the quieter coda of Act III between the King and his much ignored Queen (reminiscent of the "Interlude" between a fictional king and his mistress from Shaw's 1929 APPLE CART) brings a satisfying end to the festival of ideas and half remembered history.
While largely unperformed today and to date unmounted on Broadway, IN GOOD KING CHARLES' GOLDEN DAYS does hold the surprising record for the longest run of any Shaw play in New York for an Off-Broadway production starting January 24, 1957, and it's easy to see why. Based on a recent (3/17/08) reading by the "Shaw Project" at the Players' Club, this may well be simply Shaw's funniest play. It may not offer a satisfying plot like some of his best - ARMS AND THE MAN, PYGMALION, MAJOR BARBARA or CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA (after Shaw's 1925 Nobel Prize winner, SAINT JOAN, he seemed to lose interest in simple "story telling" to support his satires), but like his earlier examination of Caesar, ...CHARLES... does offer a warmly sympathetic view of a famous monarch (and what an ideal monarch could be) and a LOT of very satisfying laughter.
Someone should find and clear the rights to this all star abridgment to get it out on DVD for a wider audience to enjoy.
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