Shakespeare Theatre's Major Barbara

Bernard Shaw believed in theatre with a purpose, he wrote plays full of social commentary. Shaw conveys his ideas through his characters, writing them long speeches in which they proclaim their opinions. When well-played, his characters come across and intelligent and passionate. When poorly performed, they only seem long-winded. Shaw’s plays present a challenge to actors and directors, for when producing them, one runs the risk of sermonizing and leaving your audience behind, asleep in their chairs. Fortunately for theatre-goers, director Ethan McSweeney has mounted a smart production of Major Barbara that avoids these pitfalls.

Andrew Undershaft (Ted van Griethuysen) is a wealthy arms manufacturer. Due to the perceived immoralty of his profession he has been estranged from his wife, Lady Britomart (Helen Carey), and children, Stephen (Tom Story), Barbara (Vivienne Benesch), and Sarah (Leah Curney). The engagements of Barbara and Sarah have necessitated a reunion. Undershaft is most intrigued by his daughter Barbara, a major in the Salvation Army, working to save souls. Their moralities bring the two of them head to head and they each try to convert each other. Is money the root of all evil, or is poverty?

This of course gives Benesch and Griethuysen the brunt of making Shaw’s language work. Vivienne Benesch is engaging, strong, and regal. Griethuysen is even better, and his many speeches come off so easily.

The Shakespeare Theatre once again fills the stage with wonderful performances in the supporting roles. Best of all is Helen Carey as Lady Britomart. Her dry delivery is utterly perfect, and is what keeps the first act from ever dragging. Karl Kenzler gives an energetic performance as Adolphus Cusins, Barbara’s fiancĂ©. Andrew Long, Floyd King and Catherine Flye show up in the second act as London’s unfortunates. They are each engaging, but some of their words get lost between the accents and the large space of the Sidney Harman Hall.

The set is gorgeously designed by James Noone. Just wait until the curtain comes up on the first act. Likewise, there are excellent costumes by Robert Perdziola.

3 stars
Through March 23rd


Anonymous said…
Hello Two Hours Traffic Bloggers! I work for the Shakespeare and wanted to send my thanks for blogging about our productions on your site. I'd like to be in touch about a special blogger event we're hosting this spring but can't locate your contact info on the site. Would you mind passing it along to me at Thanks! -Lauren

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