Theatre at UBC

ARMS and the MAN
by George Bernard Shaw

Director Mindy Parfitt (MFA Directing Candidate) Music Directors Mishelle Cuttler, Alyssa Semczyszyn Scenic Design Ana Cappelluto Costume Design Saghar Bazargan Lighting Design Craig Alfredson Sound Design Carey Dodge Band Leader/Accordian Mishelle Cuttler Trombone Brian Cochrane Trumpet Michael Neale Stage Manager Jackie Buck

Dates and Venue 18 - 27 March  2010 @ 7:30pm 
Frederic Wood Theatre, UBC

Reviewer Jane Penistan

One of Shaw's early plays, Arms and the Man still enchants young and older audiences. This was evident on the opening night of this play at Frederic Wood Theatre on Thursday last. The full house comprised a large proportion of undergraduates who enjoyed the humour and cynicism of Shaw's wit and his sending up of the pretentious and arrogant.

The action takes place in the house of a bucolic bourgeois Bulgarian family during a minor war in the Balkan states in the 19th century. The noise of street fighting disturbs the evening peace of the Petkoff household. Raina Petkoff (Kim Bennett), in her boudoir, is idolising the photograph of her fiance, Sergius (Ryan Warden), away at the war in the company of Major Petkoff (Andrew Cohen). The household is warned to lock their doors and windows, as a fugitive as been seen nearby. Raina's maid, Louka (Fiona Mongillo), to please Raina, leaves the veranda door unbolted. The fighting sounds nearer, accompanied by shots, and Raina puts out her candle and cowers in bed. The veranda doors are burst open by a breathless intruder. Calling out to the intruder, who is silent, Raina relights her candle and reveals a blackened-faced soldier of the Serbian army. He apologises for his intrusion, but explains that he is in danger of being shot if he is seen. Frightened, but remembering the old custom of hospitality to strangers, she endeavours to entertain the dishevelled soldier in her best society manner, feeding him with the remains of a box of chocolate creams to allay his hunger. The house is searched by the local military officials but the hidden soldier escapes detection even though his empty revolver is in obvious sight. Raina's mother, Catherine, is enlisted by her daughter to help the refugee, Captain Bluntschli (Jameson Parker), to escape. This they manage by dressing him in an old coat belonging to the major. Later Sergius and Major Petkoff return from the war and are greeted happily by Catherine and Raina. But Sergius proves to be a conceited, stupid and somewhat lecherous young man, which Raina does discover. Captain Bluntchli appears unexpectedly to return the coat which Major Petkoff has already missed.

Major Petkoff has no illusions about war, and relates the latest gossip about a soldier escaping from being shot with the help of a young woman, much to the embarrassment of Catherine and Raina. All is revealed and forgiven in a series of confessions and recognitions. Captain Bluntschli receives news of his father's death and his inheritance of a vast amount of property and wealth. He goes off to settle his affairs, promising to return at a later date to marry Raina.

The three sets are pleasing and have the right balance of unsophisticated taste endeavouring to be socially and fashionably acceptable, and the costumes are well designed and executed and are appropriate to the characters of the cast.

The live music of the band is a delight and is much appreciated. Mindy Parfitt keeps the production at a good pace and uses the attractive scenery well. Her cast are all believable and play well together. Andrew Cohen's Major Petkoff is remarkable in its unobtrusive authority which gains the respect from all the other characters in the plot. Jameson Parker's Bluntchli is another excellent, well thought out performance, delivered with good diction and movement. Raina is suitably unsophisticatedly girlish but develops observation and some wisdom as the play progresses. Sergius could be a little less foppish and slightly more lecherous to become less of a caricature. Of the two servants, Louka and Nicola (David A. Kaye) both are intelligent and scheming, Louka obviously and Nicola subtly and cunningly. Two nice performances.

This is a very good evening's entertainment and deserves great applause for giving the audience the opportunity to see this Victorian social satire well directed and performed and the cast the privilege of performing in a great and lasting work.

© 2010 Jane Penistan