George Bernard Shaw is famous for his comedies of manners—satirizing the upper classes with his sharp wit and ennobling the servant classes who are usually portrayed as cleverer and more sensible than their employers. City Lit Theater’s sharp production of ARMS AND THE MAN marches us right through that territory.
City Lit Theater Creates Fun and Fast-Paced Production
The play takes place during the 1885 Serbo-Bulgarian War. Involved are three military men, a lovely daughter with a patient mother, a maid-servant and a man-servant. The plot is fun and the action fast-paced. In two hours, you are swept through funny, implausible social situations that force all characters to examine their strongly-held, but unrealistic beliefs. In the end, the capable Swiss mercenary gets the beautiful daughter; the pompous Bulgarian major gets the maid-servant; the mother and father embrace peace and the man-servant just might get to open a shop in Sofia.
Dynamic Direction by Brian Pastor
What makes Arms and the Man so enjoyable, in this writer’s view, is the dynamic direction by Brian Pastor. You don’t go to City Lit Theater for sumptuous costumes and lavish sets. It’s a satin sheet doubling as a headboard drape, a balcony door that becomes a library door, one table that is reused multiple ways. The costumes by Tom Kieffer are simple and effective. The military men are elegant and daughter Reina’s dress in multiple shades and layers of soft, pale green, is feminine and stylish. The servants’ outfits are ethnic enough to give an air of Balkan authenticity.
Cast Handles Shaw’s High Jinx with Aplomb
The casting was spot-on,in this writer’s view. This is Shaw’s most humorous play and most roles are written to be over the top. Scottie Caldwell as heroine Raina morphs from hero-worshipper to pragmatic lover—of a different man. Martin Diaz-Valder lives the role of pompous lover Sergius, complete with a twirlable mustache. Adam Benjamin blooms in Act II as Captain Bluntschli, transforming from a war-weary fugitive to a dashing heir who wins the girl. Adam Bitterman as Raina’s father Major Petkoff, commands our attention with his stage presence and resonate voice. Eleanor Katz as Raina’s mother is a solid comfort throughout. Chelsee Carter as maid-servant Louka, has her eye on the prize, Sergius. When she gets her man, it does not seem too far-fetched. Linsey Falls as man-servant Nicola lives the double life of obsequious servant and future entrepreneur.
City Lit’s Arms and the Man is fun, with lots of laugh-out-loud moments and not-so-subtle lessons about the follies of war and self-importance .
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Thru October 21, 2018
Fridays, Saturdays, two Mondays 7:30PM
Sundays 3:00 pm
City Lit Theater
1020 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue. Located on the Second floor of the Edgewater Presbyterian Church two blocks east of the Bryn Mawr Red Line Station.
Reviewer Ann Boland is committed to Chicago theater. Involved in the audience since the early 80’s, she’s witnessed firsthand the rise of our theater scene, our exceptional local talent, and the vigor of each new generation. Ann handles public relations for authors and works on programs to help seniors with neurological movement disorders. Please visit her website for more information.
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