Saturday, May 22, 2010

Show #23 "Major Barbara" at Tacoma Little Theatre

Ah....Shaw. What can be said for an evening spent listening to the copious words of Nobel Prize-winning author and noted socialist George Bernard Shaw?

At the start of the evening, knowing the general storyline for "Major Barbara," I had braced myself for an on-stage debate between disparate philosophies. Andrew Undershaft, millionaire industrialist/arms manufacturer, does verbal and ideological battle with his elder daughter Barbara Undershaft, Salvation Army worker and Christian moralist.

And being a wee bit familiar with some of Shaw's beliefs, I also girded my loins for the onslaught of poisoned arrows that might ensue from a man critical of religion but who knew very little (if anything) about real faith.

This was not a play where the audience could enjoy some catchy tunes sung by lovely ladies in tap shoes, or a slapstick evening complete with banana peels on the floor.

No, this was war. But not the kind I expected.

On one side, you could hear High British. You know, the "I cawn't" and all that....

On the other side, I heard some lover-ly Cockney. "Moy nime's Bill Walker..."

Then, there were the in-betweeners, such as the character played by my friend Darrel Shephard. Not high English or working class Cockney. Something in between.

In other words, an evening of dueling accents.

Some wars are fought with cannons, such as the ones supplied by Undershaft. Other wars are fought with words and precise pronunciation.

So, this all begs a question in my mind.

In a world where most audience dollars go toward battles involving baseballs or soccer balls, is there a place for ideological or dialectical contests?

I would venture to say, yes. But, please make it entertaining. With all due respects to George Bernard Shaw, his dramatic verbiage plays about as well (in this day and age) as a scoreless baseball game that goes into extra innings. A lot of bats swinging but no hits in sight.

But, ultimately that doesn't stop us from coming back to the baseball stadium. We always live in hope that the next game will bring us more excitement. So it is with the theatre. There's always next time.

So....batter up.

Production photo courtesy of Leischen Moore

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