Forever Fashionable Farce
When you dwell upon the infinite wisdom that drives the George Bernard Shaw playwrighting legacy, it’s hard to believe that the ultra-clever Irish socialist would have a frothy romantic comedy in him. But take a deeper look into Arms And The Man and you’ll discover there’s a whole lot more going on.
His bullet proof narrative featuring Captain Bluntschli (Graeme Somerville), a Swiss mercenary that strays into the bedroom of Raina Petkoff (Kate Besworth), the daughter of a Bulgarian military leader who then conceals his presence warmly lays the ground work for a lighthearted amorous tale.
Complications set in when Raina’s love interest, Sergius (Martin Happer), returns from battle only to have a wandering eye for the Petkoff family maid, Louka (Claire Julien).
A duty driven mother, Catherine (Laurie Paton), a seemingly absent minded father, Major Paul Petkoff (Norman Browning), and a can’t get no satisfaction servant, Nicola (Peter Krantz) add to the layers of hilarity when a high stakes battle for a young woman’s heart begins to brew. It’s anyone’s guess who will be victorious.
As the ‘chocolate cream soldier’ stuck between a rock and a hard place, Graeme Somerville charms in presenting his character’s devotion worthiness. One of his finest moments comes at the end of the play when the closeted capitalist rattles off his inherited assets to position himself as undisputed husband material.
This works extremely well with Kate Besworth’s flighty ingénue with a soft spot for heroes. Not only is she privy to her ‘noble attitude with a thrilling voice’ appeal, deep down Raina is an aristocracy poser which the actor plays down smartly throughout the story.
The Shaw Festival presentation is loaded with laughter due to Morris Panych’s ability to seize excessive fun in the already established funny. And when Ken MacDonald’s second act design illustrates the mechanics of the heart with rotating gears, you’re left with the impression that farce will forever remain in fashion.
Every season needs a feel good theatrical offering. Arms and The Man is tailor made for the lazy days of summer and guaranteed to leave you with a sunset smile.
Review by Steven Berketo