The Playhouse, National Arts Centre and the Citadel
Arms and the Man
Reviewer: Jane Penistan
Director Marti Maraden Set and costume design Leslie Frankish Lighting design John Munro Sound design Peter M. Boyle Stage manager Joan Sullivan
A proscenium curtain of colourful minarets and onion domes with fanciful weather vanes greets the assembling audience for this presentation of this witty, humourous and satirical comedy by Bernard Shaw. Its philosophy and criticism of war and society are as relevant today as they were over a hundred years ago, when Shaw shocked a complacent Victorian audience.
Director Marti Maraden's designers and cast have come from across Canada, from Newfoundland to British Columbia, with Vancouver represented by Bernard Cuffling and David Marr. The production has toured across the country The Playhouse being its latest stop.
The three ornate sets are as Shaw described in his stage directions with the contrasting social consciousness and rustic domesticity as cynically portrayed. The costumes are gorgeously Eastern European of the late 19th century, again contrasting the social awareness of the wealthy women of the Petkoff household with the brightly coloured peasant attire of their servants. The uniforms too emphasize the difference in attitude of the old regime of charismatic, amateur officers and the practical, professional soldiers. The lighting, music and soundscape all enhance this faraway Balkan world, the world of the posturing romantics in the midst of the reality of bitter cold and brutality which may suddenly invade and disturb the security of the comfortable dreamers.
Kate Hurman is a majestic Catherine Petkoff, devoted mother and wife, but very conscious of the importance of her social standingand appreciation of modernity. As Major Petkoff, Bernard Cuffling embodies all that is best in the older generation. His is a really stellar performance. The handsome and posturing Sergius, who is beginning to doubt all his heroic notions and is not above a little philandering, is Gordon Rand. As Raina, Nicole Underhay brings a youthful charm and a gradual awakening to the reality of love and war. David Marr's chocolate cream soldier, Captain Bluntschli, is understated and efficient, with his practicality and realism tempered with humour and humanity. Daniela Vlaskalic, as Louka could have enjoyed her cleverness and ambition more had she been prouder of herself and her perceptive craftiness. Nicola, Larry Yachimec, lacked that superiority acquired by trusted upper servants, which upsets the equanimity of those he serves. He, like Bluntschli, is a man of business.
Shaw's well-known and popular plays are not often seen on stage in Vancouver. The Playhouse's presentation here of Shaw's biting wit and satirical humour in all their glory, is an excellent opportunity to enjoy this rare treat.
Arms and the Man runs at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre, Hamilton and Dunsmuir 17 January - 14 February, 2004, Monday through Saturday at 8,00 p.m. with matinees on Saturdays and selected Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2.00 p.m. There are no shows on Sundays, or Tuesday January 20th, and 27th and Monday February 9th.
For more information about special events, reservations and ticket prices call Production Centre Audience Services 606-873-3311 or visit www.vancouverplayhouse.com
© 2004, Jane Penistan