April 01, 2005

The Light Brigade Gets Lucky


Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw

Myself- Captain Bluntschli
Ardith- Raina Petkoff
Wilson- Sergius Saranoff
Anna- Catherine Petkoff
Gallagher- Petkoff
Scholl- Nicola, Russian Officer
Rachel- Louka

George Bernard Shaw is just awesome. His plays are hilarious, and they always manage to stomp all over some cherished British convention of the period during which they were written. Arms and the Man is Shaw's dig at the popular Romantic notions of warfare as honorable and glorious (this includes some hilarious pot shots at "The Charge of the Light Brigade").

During a war between the Serbs and the Bulgarians, Captain Bluntschli (a Swedish mercenary), finds himself on the run after his artillery unit is accidentally routed by a suicidal Bulgarian cavalry charge (the Serbs just happened to have been sent the wrong size ammunition at precisely the wrong moment). He escapes up into the bedroom of the young Bulgarian woman, Raina Petkoff, whose fiancÚ, Sergius Saranoff, led this cavalry charge, and she and her mother take him in.

Soon he returns safely home in an old coat belonging to the girl's father. After the conflict ends some few weeks later, he comes back to return the coat and hilarity ensues as Raina and her mother attempt to hide their role in his escape from her father and Sergius (who met Bluntschli during the peace negotiations and have developed an enormous respect for him).

To complicate matters, Raina and Sergius each consider the other's love for them to be the one completely pure and noble thing in their lives . . . and they each find themselves falling for other people: Raina for Bluntschli and Sergius for Louka (the fiercly-independent maid). Fortunately for this ingenue and her Byronic betrothed, Bluntschli's straightforward, unvarnished view of life, and the six hotels he has just inherited from his father, are there to save them from themselves and their hopelessly idealized worldviews.

That's kinda Shaw's thing: Tension arises not only from romantic triangles and the question of who will wind up with whom, but from the intolerable possibility that the play might end while a character still has a fractured worldview. And so, by the end, everyone (at least, everyone important) has been brought peacefully and blissfully into the fold . . . their wrongheaded ideas about life, love, war, virtue, etc. finally cast aside.

Happily ever after, indeed.

Posted by Jared at April 1, 2005 02:28 AM | TrackBack