The Point of Honor | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Point of Honor

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THE POINT OF HONOR, Single Action Theatre Company, at Greenview Arts Center. Joseph Conrad based his 1907 novella The Point of Honor on a legendary 15-year feud that persisted as doggedly as the Napoleonic wars that barely contained it. Prodded by vanity and their peers, two French cavalry officers, Armand D'Hubert and Gabriel Feraud, fight a half dozen duels with sabers and guns. Hatred links them as patriotism never could--until D'Hubert, tired of private and public war, grows beyond this phony sense of honor.

Like Javert obsessively pursuing Jean Valjean in Les miserables, the choleric Feraud subjects the cool and gallant D'Hubert to continual challenges. Occasionally the two even fight the enemy. Throughout Feraud remains ignorant of his massive indebtedness to D'Hubert, who saves him from arrest by the Bourbons and secretly provides him a pension--which is about as ironic as Conrad ever gets.

No less dogged is Robert Koon's three-hour adaptation for Single Action Theatre Company. Sadly, much of the much that's here seems more didactic than dramatic. The point of the piece--that a testosterone grudge is no test of true honor--is obvious early, but the action staggers on, making the obvious blatant, the story predictable, and the audience weary. Not everything in fiction should be dramatized.

With fine period costumes by Catherine Painter and a plucky cast of 18, Rodney Higgenbotham's staging sometimes distracts us from the excess. But Chuck Coyl and Koon play the hussars with ramrod dignity, humorless rectitude, and tentative stage combat. You tire of their spat long before they do.

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