Dear Liar
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Jon McNally

Have you ever had a long-term unrequited love affair with a member of the opposite sex? While most of us find unrequited love tiring and full of frustrations, many writers have thrived on these subtle relationships. There were several unrequited loves that inspired many of D.H. Lawrence’s novels and short stories, yet sexually he always remained true to his wife Frieda.

Playwright George Bernard Shaw also had several of these liaisons but none lasted longer or inspired more of his writing than his 40-year relationship with the actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell. Some of Shaw’s plays actually had parts written specifically for Campbell to perform. Since much of their relationship transpired in letters that Campbell’s daughter published in 1952, it was only a matter of time before someone seized the opportunity to dramatize the letters for stage.

Playwright Jerome Kilty did just that when he wrote Dear Liar, and Center Repertory Company of Walnut Creek has recently opened their 2001-2002 season with the play directed by Gillian Eaton and starring Kerri Shawn as Campbell and Richard James as Shaw. Shawn and James have appeared frequently at Center Rep and recently shared some of their insights about the play and Shaw’s life. “(Dear Liar) tells the story of two people who met on a soul plane – they had an incredible emotional connection,” Shawn said. “And it created a highly charged sexual tension – an excitement – between the two of them, even though I don’t believe they ever had an intimate relationship. I think some people go through their entire lives and never know what it’s like to meet someone on that plane.”

Fortunately Shaw’s wife Charlotte seemed to understand her husband’s relationship to Campbell and how much it meant to his artistic freedom. “I think that many artistic people need a certain amount of freedom in their lives to nourish their creativity,” James said. “It doesn’t mean that they don’t love you or that they’re wandering. In the case of Shaw, he showed all of the letters (between himself and Campbell) to his wife, and perhaps, that (honesty) is what kept their marriage together.”

Why not try out a different kind of love story. Dear Liar is both entertaining and thought provoking. Though it helps to be a Shaw fan or at least know a little about his writing, the essence of the play is about the subtle inspirations of love.

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