‘Arms and the Man’ at Ross Valley Players

Presented at the Ross Valley Players, March 27, 2014
Arms and the Man is classic Bernard Shaw, with the politics of the time (circa 1894) and war underlying the main romantic encounters of the production. Ross Valley Players uses its limited stage well, with three distinct sets marking the three acts; this is Ken Rowland’s specialty, and is very effective.  Lighting was good for the limited height, with some shading around the edges.

Director Chris Cassell develops distinct characterizations of all major players with clarity. Kate Fox Marcom is charming as Raina,
Stephanie Ahlberg and Ron Dailey play the innocent concerned parents very realistically. Philip Goleman was the Swiss professional Captain Buntschli (and Raina’s suiter) provides the calm, rational foundation that makes the play work for the audience. Peter Warden’s characterization of the pompous Major Sergius Saranoff is extreme and rather frothy, but not threatening – rather what Shaw might have desired.  Louka and Nicole (Robyn Grahn and Frederick Lein) as the household servants are specialists at spreading and “hiding” rumors, as well as cleaning up after the other characters right up to the end of the play.

Shaw is known for his philosophical and sometimes ironic characterizations of his time, with references that, surprisingly, we can still understand. The issues of love and war, afterall, are still major ones in our lives and on our stage. The platonic romantic ideals of his times color his world so that people don’t die and don’t screw on stage, but Shaw still deals with the issues of the day to a point that gets my attention. He still tells a good story with characters that breathe enough to fog the glass a bit.

RVP gives us a delightful romp in old Bulgaria with colorful costumes, sets and actors that make the evening fun for all.

*** 1/2
Gary Gonser
TheatreHount.net