Players Club of Swarthmore’s ARMS AND THE MAN Aims to Please

by Lisa Panzer

Players Club of Swarthmore hits the mark with a thoroughly entertaining opening night performance of ARMS AND THE MAN! In one of his most popular plays, author George Bernard Shaw, armed with a comedic arsenal, including irony wit and satire, sets his sights on debunking idealistic love and ‘romantic’ notions of warfare. ARMS AND THE MAN, titled after the opening lines of Virgil’s Aeneid, premiered in 1894, and is set during the 19th century Serbo-Bulgarian war, at the affluent Petkoff household in a Bulgarian province. When shooting commences outside the Petkoff manor, an enemy mercenary soldier climbs into young and Raina Petkoff’s (delightfully played by Hannah Sisk) bedchamber to hide, but when opportunity knocks to turn him in, Raina instead aids him, with the help of her mother, and feeds him the last of her cream chocolates, setting up a situation that will unravel in social tide turning events several months later, as the conflict is over and the men return with war, and other, tales to tell.

The entire cast, directed by Paul Kerrigan, gave glorious energy to this production. Hannah Sisk flits through Raina’s multiple moods and moments like a butterfly through a field of various flowers. Tatyana Duke added much dimension as Catherina Petkoff, Raina’s mother, lady of the house, and wife; her facial expressions speaking volumes, while Laura Christman gave the show a determined and damn-it-all Louka, the ambitious cigarette smoking household maid to the Petkoffs. Mercenary soldier and pragmatist, ‘heart of a hotel owner’, Captain Bluntschli, was portrayed with presence and purposeful physicality by Gil Johnson, who wonderfully juxataposed his character against blustery vainglorious Major Sergius Saranoff, played with great gusto and pomp by Josiah Donnell. John Harvey’s command of the stage is evident in every move he makes in the delightful delivery of his character, Major Paul Petkoff, father to Raina, gentleman soldier and master of this particular household. Nicola, servant to the household, was well done by R. Bruce Stewart, who supplied many a laugh to the audience, and Thomas Wilcox deployed the Russian Officer with aplomb.

A lush, splendid set (Christine Belton) awaits theatergoers at PCS, with a gorgeous backdrop (Sandy Goldsborough), high columns, detailed with lovely furnishings and props (Bob Dimond, Dale Dimond, Pat Rizzo and Marge Shaffer). Sound (Bill Whipple, Laurie Jacobs), lighting (T.R. Hickey) and other electronic tech (Dave Campbell) were well executed, and the costumes, for the female characters in particular, (Cindy Schneeman, Betsy Berwick, Becky Wright) were absolutely charming. From the very beginning of the show, to the final curtain, entertainment reigned!

Surrender yourself to an ideal evening of fine theater at:

Directed by Paul Kerrigan
January 10 – January 25, 2014
Players Club of Swarthmore
614 Fairview Avenue
Swarthmore, PA 19081


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