Thursday, May 31, 2007
Major Barbara (The SOB Review) - McGuire Proscenium Stage, Guthrie, Minneapolis, MN
** (out of ****)
Oh, to be a critic at the New York Post, where I surely would have blared in my headline: "Major Bore-bara."
I realize it's completely unfashionable to dislike or disregard an esteemed work such as George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara. But to be frank, I found the current Guthrie revival directed by Lisa Peterson tedious and frustrating.
Three hours is a long slog to endure with all its moralizing and pontificating -- although note to Guthrie management: it did not help that all that hot air from the stage made the theatre itself unbearably suffocating. In a play where wealth is portrayed as god, can't you afford a little A/C?
Yes, Shaw points out the underlying hypocrisy that is inherent in many religions, and his points regarding poverty being society's biggest crime are well-taken. The manner in which he depicts how easily and willingly some men sell their souls for wealth is breathtaking and plays well even today when seemingly everyone wants his or her 15 minutes of fame and the fortune that goes along with that.
But his message that wealth is to be revered as the world's real savior is, in my humble estimation, both specious and overly cynical. Additionally, anyone seeking to draw allegories from this work to today's military industrial complex would be overanalyzing the play, which works best when Shaw's exceptional humor shines through.
Fortunately for anyone seeing the show, the cast is strong, led by a luminous Sarah Agnew in the title role of the Salvation Army soldier with aristocratic roots. She's supported very credibly by Paul O'Brien as her father Andrew Undershaft -- a man whose religion is his cannon factory.
Sandra Shipley is smart as the delusional Lady Britomart Undershaft, while Jonas Goslow amply provides desperately needed comic relief as the dim-witted Charles Lomax.
Neil Patel's set design -- particularly his visually arresting retro-futuristic munitions factory -- will certainly divert your attention. But just as Peterson's staging of factory workers rolling huge cannon balls up a giant incline turned from stunning to taxing, I was beginning to feel as though I was counting sheep -- all of which left me wishing I were already in bed.
Major Barbara plays through June 17.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
Click here for tickets.