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The Boston Globe

Theater & art

Stage Review

Flat Earth goes underground for ‘Pygmalion’

WATERTOWN — For the better part of its 100-year existence, George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” has been overshadowed by “My Fair Lady,” the 1956 Lerner and Loewe musical version, in which, at the end, cockney flower seller Eliza Doolittle seems to express her love for Professor Henry Higgins, the man who taught her “proper” English. Shaw anticipated that audiences would want to see the pair wind up together; in 1916, just two years after his play’s London premiere, he penned a postscript essay “explaining” that Eliza would never have married Higgins and that she in fact wed out-of-pocket aristocrat Freddy Eynsford Hill, even though Freddy barely registers in the play proper.

What Shaw couldn’t have anticipated is that, a century after the 1914 premiere, Flat Earth Theatre would set his play in the London Underground, with a totalitarian police state ruling the streets above. Devon Jones has cleverly adapted “Pygmalion,” with minimal adjusting of Shaw’s script, to take place in different tube stations: Covent Garden, Bond Street, Pimlico, King’s Cross St. Pancras, and Waterloo.

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