The year is 1796 and we come upon a small Italian inn with vines from the vineyard creeping up outside the walls. A modest kitchen sits against the back wall with a man furiously stirring a pot of risotto. He introduces himself as the innkeeper and tells us the man sitting at a table in front of him is none other than Napoleon Bonaparte. Here, we’re about to experience a tiny moment in a man’s life who is destined for greatness in THE MAN OF DESTINY.
American Players Theatre Destined for Greatness
Napoleon Bonaparte sits at a large and heavy table, commanding our focus to the center of the stage. He munches on bread and cheese as he pores over maps while consulting charts and notebooks. We watch one of the greatest military minds as he plans what will become his conquest of Italy.
This moment, however, is interrupted by another guest at the inn, the woman upstairs. Both her name and reason for being here elude us, but she has stolen letters meant to be delivered to Napoleon. Though Napoleon could easily overpower this woman, he sees her as a formidable opponent, and instead they engage in a battle of wits. They each try to outsmart one another to get these letters. Yet, would they all be better off not knowing what the contents are at all?
Historical References & Metaphors
George Bernard Shaw takes inspiration from historical events in THE MAN OF DESTINY. If you’re a history buff, you will likely pick up on some of the more subtle references here than an audience member who is not schooled in this history.
The script is an engaging battle of wits that plays out as Napoleon and the mysterious woman dance around the importance of the letters. We are hooked by trying to decipher the allusions being made as the two characters try to suss the other one out t to gain the upper hand. There’s not much action in the play. Rather it’s a script that snags you into trying to decipher what the allusions are reaching for and their underlying meanings.
Charles Pasternak and Cassia Thompson, as Napoleon and the woman, spark against each other as they engage in their tete-a-tete. Pasternak shows different sides of Napoleon from his brilliant mind to his sometimes childish fits. Thompson masterfully gains ground on Napoleon through her devious charms.
These characters would also not be complete without a little comedic relief from Josh Krause and James Ridge as one of Napoleon’s lieutenants and the innkeeper, respectively. Both take large laughs from the audience as they bumble together around the other two.
In this writer’s view, THE MAN OF DESTINY is an interesting play which looks at a small moment in a man’s life that has many much larger, more notable events. If you’re looking for more action driven shows, this might not be the one for you. If you love historical plays and ones where you have to decipher the meaning in dialogue, this would be a good fit for you.
Victoria P. Lantz
Laura F. Wendt
Now through September 28, 2019
American Players Theatre
5950 Golf Course Rd.
Spring Green, WI 53588
Full price tickets can be purchased through the American Players Theatre website or by calling the box office at 608-588-2361.
Photos: Liz Lauren
About the Author
Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a media supervisor. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.
Editor's Note: Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski