BWW Reviews: Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw
Man and Superman, a rarely performed play by George Bernard Shaw, is currently being produced by The Blackbird Theater in Nashville. In its entirety, Man and Superman is said to be around five hours in length, but The Blackbird Theater has adapted the play, with direction by Beki Baker, and it now sits at a nice and much more manageable two hours and forty-five minutes.
Man and Superman goes back and forth between comedy and romance. Which is it? I'm not sure. But there is quite a bit of both comedy and romance floating around in the show. It's the kind of show that, even though it is set in the very early 1900s, you think it MUST have been written in this decade. Yet it wasn't. Written originally in 1903, it's interesting to see how many of the subjects and themes in the show are completely and totally relevant in today's world. It explores the interworkings of relationships between men and women, and the difference of opinons of those considered "liberal" and those who are considered "conservative." Man and Superman also touches on the societal views of the general public and how it affects the thoughts and views of the average person.
At the top of the show, we meet Jack (John) Tanner, a liberal minded person of the time, who has written a book that shocks many of his peers. Mr. Ramsden, played by Samuel Whited III, is especially offended by the book, in spite of having never read it. What's worse is that family friend Mr. Whitefield has passed away and left his daughter Ann as a ward to both Mr. Ramsden and Jack Tanner. This doesn't please either of them as Mr. Ramsden thinks Jack is an inappropriate guardian for Ann....and Jack feels the same way.
Played by Wes Driver, Jack sees himself as an independent thinker and wants to control the world around him and not let his emotions get the best of him. Jack as a character could be very polarizing, but Driver turns him into a character that you just kind of want to see get what he wants (even if he doesn't know he wants it). The audience gets the joy of watching Jack fight with everything he has to escape what the general population would consider normal and then watch him slowly realize that he may have to compromise to get the things he wants in life.
Ann, played with great mischief by Evelyn O'Neal Brush, uses her influence with Mr. Ramsden and Jack to get the things she wants, and she doesn't even try to hid it...much. Even as her suitor, Octavius Robison, played by Kris Wente, trips all over himself to please her, Ann does what she can to keep Octavius at a distance, but close enough that she still gets the perks of having a guy worship the ground she walks on. Wente's comedic timing and his ability to play at physical comedy, make him one of the funniest in the entire show.
Some other outstanding mentions in the show are Violet Robison, played by Cassie Hamilton, and Mrs. Whitefield, played by Bonnie Keen. Violet, Octavious' younger sister, is very much a person who wants to be with the man she loves...but only if she can keep her fortune as well. Because of this, she marries without telling anyone and then hides it, continuing to live with her family and make no mention of who her husband actually is, even after she does admit she is married. Mrs. Whitefield, Ann's mother, is quite the comedian as well. Keen's ability to play off of the others around her, and relay her emotions with facial expressions, makes her a great addition to the cast, and makes her character one of my personal favorites in the show.
With four acts, and several scenes, Man and Superman must have been very difficult to stage, but the scene changes (senic design by Andy Bleiler) were flawless and the set itself was worth speaking of as it was beautifully done. Costuming for the show was designed by Hannah Schmidt. Schmidt did a lovely job in regards to costuming. I'm a fan of the time period and I love seeing beautiful costuming done for this era.
If you enjoy My Fair Lady, you'll probably appreciate Man and Superman just as much. No surprise as My Fair Lady is based on Pygmalion, another play by George Bernard Shaw. You get the time period, the costuming, the stubborn man and multi-layered woman, and all the quick wit and comedy you could want. You can catch Man and Superman onstage until February 2 at Shamblin Theatre at Lipscomb University. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the Lipscomb box office at 615-966-7075.