opened our 1997-1998 season with one of the most popular of Shaw's
plays: Arms and the Man. Written in 1894, and
described by the author as "An Anti-romantic Comedy", its title was
taken from the first line of Dryden's Virgil. It
appeared as one of Shaw's "Plays Pleasant" along
with Candida, The Man of Destiny
and You Never Can Tell. It had
been completed in a rush. Miss A. E. F. Horniman had backed a series of
plays at the Avenue Theatre in London which was being managed by Shaw's
friend, Florence Farr. The first production failed and Shaw finished
Arms and the Man in time for it to open after rushed rehearsals, on
April 21st, 1894. Hesketh Pearson, in his
biography of Shaw, described the opening:
"....the actors, who could make neither head nor tail of the
business, played with anxious seriousness, and were rewarded with a
crazy success. The audience laughed immoderately at nearly everything.
Unfortunately, the actors, convinced by the laughs that this strange
piece must be a farce, began to play for them on the conventional
farcical comedy lines; and the first night success was never repeated.
Shaw had planned all the laughs unerringly, but only as responses to an
earnestly sincere performance."
play closed on July 7th that year. We used the
revised text from the thirties when Shaw edited and reworked many of
his plays. It's a tighter script, better than the 1894 version, even if
you do have to pay royalties on it! All of Shaw's delightful cynicism
is here: about love, the English, pretension, and of course the
military mind, all in a delightful love story. Bluntshli, a Swiss
mercenary fighting for the Serbs, is escaping from a defeat by the
Bulgarian cavalry when he climbs a drain-pipe to hide in the bedroom of
Petkoff, daughter of Major Paul Petkoff ("the highest rank in the
Bulgarian army"). He is exhausted and starving. Raina hides him and
feeds him chocolate creams, his own supply that he carries instead of
cartridges, being exhausted. She is fascinated by his gentility and
sophistication and, the next morning, he is sent safely off disguised
in one of Major Petkoff's old jackets. When the war is over, he comes
back to return the coat and runs into Major Petkoff whom he has met
during an exchange of prisoners. Unfortunately, Raina's fiancé, Major
Sergius Saranof also turns up. He was the man who led the cavalry
charge that defeated Bluntchli's regiment. Louka, the maid, apparently
engaged to Nicola, the manservant, is actually in love with Sergius.
But while Raina is in love with the idea of Sergius, Louka is in love
with the man. Sergius' love for Raina is also more worship of an ideal
than anything practical. Needless to say with all this love flying
around, the Shavian wit flies. It is also turned quite ruthlessly onto
the military and their ideas of war and glory with Bluntshli being the
usual mouthpiece for Shaw.
In the end, of course, all works out well; Bluntshli gets Raina,
Sergius gets Louka and Nicola gets...well he gets lots of potential
customers for the shop he plans to open in Sofia!
Angus Hepburn played the Chocolate Cream Soldier - Captain Bluntshli, a
role he had wanted to play since he first saw the play at the Gateway
Theatre in Edinburgh back in the mid-sixties. Newcomer to the PRT.
Doreen Feldman, a recent graduate from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts,
played Raina, the young Bulgarian girl into who's room Bluntshli dives
to escape the Serbian army. The other PRT newcomers were Dick Smith as
Major Paul Petkoff and Robert Shubin as the Russian Officer. Dick may
have been new to PRT, but is well known to Westchester audiences for
his many musical, comedic and dramatic appearances all over the County.
Robert had worked backstage for us during the 1996-1997 season. Ariane
Orenstein, who played Catherine Petkoff, appeared as Sally Talley in
our very first production (Talley's Folly) and has
been a regular ever since. Steve Plaushin who had last appeared with us
in our first Paramount production, Hay Fever,
returned to play Major Sergius Saranoff. Elizabeth Moritz, who had
appeared in Hay Fever, Rumors and 6 Rms
Riv Vu played Louka, the 'maid who gets the Major'. Kurt
Lauer (Nicola) had first appeared with PRT in Rumors.
Bob Vitale joined us as Technical Director of the new season. Because
of the usual need to keep sets as simple as possible, we rationaliped
the setting. The first act was set in Raina's bedroom with the black
curtain closed to allow for Bluntshli's entrance through it. The second
and third act sets were combined into a veranda/porch, dispensing with
the library which is the normal act three set. As a result, set changes
were kept to a minimum and we were able to work with a nicely
un-cluttered set. One other change for the season was that we played
for two weekends with four performances which, although it meant
striking the set between the two weekends, was well worth the effort.
Arms and the Man
by George Bernard Shaw
directed by Stephanie
Cast in order of appearance