Arms and the Man | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Arms and the Man

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Arms and the Man, Greasy Joan & Company, at TinFish Theatre. George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man is that quintessential raisonneur's take on a world where wars are won and military heroes made through ineptitude, and where illusion-crippled lovers must be shamed or provoked into showing common sense--all illustrated with a minimum of the author's philosophical ruminations.

Greasy Joan & Company's production is subtitled "An Anti-Romantic Play," and certainly the text skewers the artifice of early 19th-century Sturm und Drang literature. But Shaw doesn't reject romantic sensitivity altogether; he rejects an affected pretense based on false notions of platonic ideals. Love is still allowed to conquer all--once the lovers have discovered their true natures and vowed to act on their newfound knowledge--and the only thoroughly practical character is jeered as ridiculously inhumane.

Under the direction of Brendon Fox, the robust Greasy Joan cast deliver crisp, competent, if rather externalized performances, but rarely seem to have as much fun as they could with the satirical observations of possibly the most articulate writer in the English language. Exceptions are Lee Roy Rogers's social-climbing matron and Gavin Witt's promotion-hungry officer, both of whom ground their line readings in firmly focused personalities rather than mere oral interpretation. Mention must also be made of Susan Kaip's set and Jennifer Seiler-Bartels's costumes, which are rich and sumptuous.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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