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Silver Spring Stage Arms and the Man

By • Jan 11th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Arms and the Man
Silver Spring Stage
Silver Spring Stage Theater, Silver Spring, MD
$18/$15 Seniors and Juniors (Fri-Sat)
$15/$13 Seniors and Juniors (Sun)
Playing through February 1
Reviewed January 10, 2009

Silver Spring Stage has a knack for picking superb scripts. George Bernard-Shaw’s jewel, Arms and the Man, is no exception. The play was written in the late 1800s, and yet remains as fresh and witty as it was when originally performed.

The show revolves around the Serbo-Bulgarian conflict…and a certain young Bulgarian lady who hides away the enemy stumbling into her moonlit bedroom on a dark, war-torn night. Raina Petkoff (Katie Keddell) knows better than to conceal Captain Bluntschli (Bob Kleinberg), from Bulgarian soldiers, especially when she’s betrothed to her own side’s leader…but upon meeting the dashing figure, she can’t help herself. There’s instant kismet between the two, and before Bluntschli departs, she’s given him chocolate creams and her father’s favorite coat to keep him warm. Weeks go by, the war is over, and her father and betrothed return home. All should be well and good but of course, that doesn’t make for an interesting comedy…so the “Chocolate Cream Soldier” returns to give back Major Petkoff’s coat…and much chaos ensues. I won’t give more of the plot away…it reads much like a classic Mozart opera, with mismatched lovers, entertaining hijinks, and a happy resolution.

Shaw gives an appealing and apt portrait of class distinction and chauvinism that exists even today.

Regrettably, there is uneven casting here, with some cast members struggling to find the right balance of period acting and the story’s relevance to the modern world.

Luckily, Director Scott Bloom has a few true stars to carry the show…Toni Carmine and Eric Henry as Catherine & Major Paul Petkoff are fantastic. Carmine especially savors Shaw’s beautiful language, delivering it with both comprehension and flair. She captures the style of the period extremely well. Henry gives the Major an absent-minded quality that endears him to the audience at every turn. Dennis Chapoval as the swashbuckling Bulgarian hero, Sergius Saranoff, is also a standout. He swaggers with conviction, and is as funny and charming as the script requires. His oversized sword also deserves its own credit in the program! E. Lynda Bruce-Lewis as Louka, Raina’s servant who resists the subservient life, has some terrific moments, especially with Chapoval…but misses opportunities to shine consistently. Her character has free reign to drip with sarcasm and envy as well as humor and pride, but the former traits only came out when expressly written in the script. Bruce-Lewis has the spunk to embody Louka but needs to remain fierce as well.

Bloom clearly loves Shaw’s work, and he’s done an admirable job of staging the show in the Stage’s distinctive space. But the performance lacked the spirit and romance that is its core.

Silver Spring Stage is known for their top-notch sets. This design (Mary Seng and Bob Thompson) is sufficient but doesn’t quite demonstrate grandeur of the Petkoff home. Of course, it’s tough to have an outstanding set when three completely different areas of the house need to be seen and there isn’t much space for storage. There is a lengthy set change between Acts I & II that will hopefully get easier with practice.

The lighting design (Jim Robertson) was nicely done, using an array of soft and flattering palettes. The candles used at the beginning were also quite effective. The costumes (Flo Arnold and Toni Carmine) were appropriate and lovely.

It must be very difficult to rehearse a show during the busiest holiday season. The production might have benefited from another week of rehearsals to tighten up their characters and build stronger relationships. Silver Spring rarely disappoints, but this production doesn’t give Arms and the Man the showcase that it so richly deserves.

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One Response »

  1. Thank you for your review. 🙂