Arms and the Man
- February 24, 2017
January 20, 2017 -- Portland, ME -- Pie Man Theatre Company (PMTC) will present Arms and the Man, a comedy written by George Bernard Shaw and directed by PMTC co-founder Stephanie Ross. One of Shaw's most popular plays, Arms and the Man was first produced in London in 1894 and subsequently published in 1898. Like Shaw's other works, questions conventional values and uses war and love as his satirical targets; Shaw himself referred to his play as an "anti-romantic" comedy, not simply because he played with the tried-and-true classical form for stage comedies, but because he also skewered the romantic notions that were common in the Victorian period and that he found distasteful.
The play begins in the bedroom of Raina Petkoff, who is lost in her reverie of the beautiful evening even amidst the sounds of the Serbo- Bulgarian war in the near distance. She is confronted by an enemy soldier, the “man” who has climbed up to her balcony from the street below and points a pistol to her head, begging protection. We soon find out this weary soldier doesn’t even have a loaded gun, and is thrilled to find out that Raina has a few chocolate cream confections to offer him. For this he is grateful and content for the alarm to be sounded and be given over to the authorities. Raina decides she will protect him, enlisting the reluctant aid of her peculiar and sometimes overbearing mother, Catherine Petkoff. They lend him a night of rest and a borrowed coat to escape the next morning.
The war now over and Bulgaria victorious, Major Paul Petkoff, husband to Catherine, returns home. Also returning from the war is Sergius Saranoff, Raina’s betrothed and leader of the should-have-been-disastrous-but-ultimately-successful cavalry charge that tipped the scales to the Bulgarian side. Raina has idealized Sergius so much in her mind, but the reality of being an accidental war hero does not match up with Raina's imaginings, and Sergius privately begins to chafe at the dissonance.
The servants of the household, Louka and Nicola, are not immune to the goings-on in the home and soon become enmeshed with the protection (or non-protection, as it may be be) of Raina and Catherine’s secret, as well as in their own complicated romantic entanglements. All starts to completely unravel as the “man“ -- or "chocolate cream soldier", as Raina refers to him -- returns to his protectors to return his borrowed coat. It quickly becomes apparent that Major Petkoff knows the “man”, who is actually Captain Bluntchsli, a Swiss mercenary who had been fighting for the Serbian side. Bluntchsli came to Petkoff's attention after the Battle of Slivnitza as a man with a gift for logistics, and now Petkoff asks him to stay on to help devise the Bulgarian after-war plans. Much to Raina's delight, and Catherine's chagrin, Bluntschli accepts the offer; soon thereafter, all the lies come crashing down.
“Arms and the Man is a play I’ve wanted to be a part of for some 30 years”, comments Stephanie Ross, director of the production. “I read the play in college and have waited for a production to come about that I could get into. That chance never came and so this season, we decided to make it happen!” This fits well under Pie Man Theatre Company’s mission to produce original new plays and revive the classics. Ross states: “Arms and the Man is a play that considers the consequences of the idealization of war and love. The belief in these concepts were a threat to the well-being of the world and its people then, and they are equally, if not moreso, a threat in our modern times. Our elected officials use inflammatory language and ‘alternative facts’ without forethought to what consequence their words and actions have to their citizens. War is constant in our world; but war upon war has not brought an end to war. As far as the ‘higher love’ is concerned, what speaks of our disillusionment more than a 50% divorce rate? This figure represents a very large disconnect between our ideas of what love and romance are expected to be as compared to what is actually happening in our relationships. The questions I seek to answer are: ‘What is actually to be gained by warring, that isn’t negated by war’s consequences?’ And ‘Are we willing to listen and hear what our partner really feels and thinks, or cling to the romanticism that love will transcend all problems?’”
Ross sums it all up, saying, “The answers to these questions are handily addressed in the incredibly written, satirical comedy of Arms and the Man. Shaw's hilarious play is not only relevant and entertaining, but truly a much-needed reminder of the strength we are capable of amidst challenging times. Even 123 years after it’s debut production in the West End, Shaw's words still resonate. Come and see it -- you will laugh with amazement as you watch these folks stumble and blunder through their lies and cover-ups until the conclusion, where we finally see everyone stripped bare of their romanticized preconceptions. In the end, they are left with nothing but a clean slate and an opportunity to begin again, in truth.”
Arms and the Man, written by George Bernard Shaw, is directed by Stephanie Ross. Featuring Kyle Aarons, Josh Brassard, Cameron Foley, Emily Grotz, Allison Kelly, Patricia Mew and Howard Rosenfield. With lighting design by Danny Gay and stage management by Rene Johnson, assisted by Nick Soloway. February 16-26, 2017, with a preview performance Wednesday, February 15, 2017. Curtain times: Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30pm, Sundays at 2:00pm. All tickets $20 (Wednesdays are "pay-what-you-can"; $10 suggested). At Mayo Street Arts Center, 10 Mayo Street, Portland ME. Tickets and information: http://www.piemantheatre.org or 207-619-4885.
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR:
Stephanie Ross (AEA, SAG-AFTRA) has her Bachelor of Fine Arts from New York University
Tisch School of The Arts. She trained as an actor with David Mamet, William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman at the Atlantic Theatre Company and acts professionally still -- she was recently seen onstage in PSC's production of A Christmas Carol in December 2016. As a director, she has worked for Falmouth Footlights, The Crowbait Club, PortFringe Theatre Festival, Freeport Players, Cauldryn & Labrys, the Maine Playwrights Festival and the Samuel French Short Play Festival in NYC. She has taught adult and children's acting classes for Acorn Productions and directed many of their children's theatre offerings between 2005 and 2014. Stephanie was the Drama Director in the Massabesic School from System from 2002 until 2014. In 2015 she directed the musical Pippin at South Portland High School. She is currently an instructor for Portland Stage Company’s Play Me A Story program and an Adjunct Assistant Lecturer in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of New England. Along with her partner, Josh Brassard, she founded Pie Man Theatre Company in order to bring great plays to life serving the intentions of the playwright.
ABOUT PIE MAN THEATRE COMPANY:
Founded in 2015 by co-artistic directors Josh Brassard and Steph Ross, Pie Man Theatre Company (PMTC) is a professional theatre organization and 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation (based in South Portland, Maine) that is focused on new, emerging and underrepresented works (especially from Maine and New England playwrights) and presenting the classics for today's audiences. PMTC's mission is to "serve the story": the (not-at-all) radical notion that the story being told by a play is its most important element, and that everything we do as theatre professionals must serve to bring the story to the audience in its most essential form. Story, after all, is how we communicate across generations and ages. Story is what makes us human. Visit us at http://www.piemantheatre.org.