A well-acted, comedic pretend!
|Arms and the Man|
|Written by George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Robert Scogin
at DCA Studio Theatre, 78 E. Washington (map)
through May 15 | tickets: $10-$22 | more info
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
A young girl is enchanted by war. Her plan for survival is to close her eyes and cover her ears. When the enemy advances through her window, she must rethink her strategy. ShawChicago presents Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw. In a Bulgarian village, the Petkoffs are treated like royalty. They have wealth, servants and a library. Their pampered lives have them glossing over the bad stuff… even war! The arrival of a tattered soldier into their home changes everything. At first, the armed man is a harbored rebel. When he returns to the house, he’s a dark, secret indiscretion for mother and daughter and an honored guest to father and fiance. Who is the chocolate cream soldier really? Arms and the Man is a witty make-love-not-war farce.
As is the ShawChicago tradition, Arms and the Man is billed technically as a staged reading. A staged reading has no costumes, no sets and no physical movement. And actors read from the script and don’t interact with each other. As often is the case at ShawChicago, Arms and the Man falls closer to ‘play‘ than ‘staged reading.‘ Under the direction of Robert Scogin, the talented ensemble use vocal stylings, facial expressions and limited gestures for powerful impact. With ‘noble attitude and thrilling voice,‘ both Jhenai Mootz (Raina) and Ian Novak (Sergius) are hysterical exaggerated versions of the upper-crust. Shiny-eyed optimist, Mootz charms with her amusing grandiosity. Staying within his small designated space, Novak throws s a magnificent red-faced, body convulsing tantrum. Kate Young (Catherine) is animated with elegant sophistication and natural animosity. When her husband muses that ‘Raina always happens at the right moment,‘ Young zings the one liner with a droll ‘yes, she listens for it.’ Christian Gray (Bluntschli) ends the show in tears. Gray is beautifully swept up in the romantic moment and weeps.
It’s Gray’s and the others’ level of character interpretation that pushes Arms and the Man away from ‘staged reading’ and up the spectrum to ‘play.‘ The entire cast performs magic. Sure, in the beginning, it’s a bare stage with music stands holding scripts. But as the actors connect on an in-depth level with the audience, theatrical imagination produces the window, the bed, the chocolate creams. The charade constructs the majestic house on the hill. You see it because the actors feel it. Arms and the Man is well-acted, comedic pretend!
ShawChicago’s Arms and the Man continues at the DCA Studio Theatre, 77 E. Washington, through May 15th, with performances Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm; Mondays at 7pm. Running Time: One hour and fifty minutes includes a fifteen minute intermission. Tickets are $10-$22, and can be purchased online or at the door.