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2nd Story's Major Barbara

 George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara follows the Undershafts, a wealthy family, whose fortune was made on munitions.  Shaw explores how the family deals with wealth and the family legacy of death, destruction and a rather unusual way of creating a line of succession for the, ever successful, business.  The themes are as relevant today as they were in the beginning of the 20th century when Major Barbara was written.

The characters, and the audience with them, ask and try to answer questions that we still ask:  "Why am I here on earth?",  "Why don't my parents understand me?",  "What do I base my self-worth on?",  "What would I do to have a full stomach?",  and "Am I only what other people think of me?".

Presented in three acts with two short intermissions, Major Barbara is performed in a nearly, empty space, format, but it is far from Black Box.  What 2nd story does with "empty space" always amazes.  Performance after performance, the costumes, scenes, lights and music have a grander feel than I expect.

Major Barbara Undershaft (Christin Goff) is a young woman who has found her identity in The Salvation Army. In the organization, as much as the faith.  She has molded her life views as a reaction to her privileged upbringing and with the firm conviction that faith alone is needed to sustain body and soul.  Over the course of a couple days, she will find her faith sorely tested and her identity crumble only to be rebuilt in the last act.

The play opens with Major Barbara's mother, Lady Undershaft , (Lynne Collinson) upbraiding the bookish, unambitious, Stephen (Dillion Medina), Major Barbara's brother.  If Stephen had even a bit more ambition, his being bookish could be seen as scholarly and he would be seen as more than simply a lay-about.  

Medina does a fine job with the role of Stephen.  I think there might be more layers of Stephen to explore, but perhaps not. Collinson brings the emotions of pain and separation and a lifetime of disappointment to what could simply be a pushy mother, giving the role much more depth than I expected.  Though absent for nearly a third of the play, Colinson's Lady Undershaft is never far from the mind.
   
As Major Barbara, Goff has many pivotal scenes with Bob Colonna, who play Andrew Undershaft, Barbara's father.  Colonna is a natural as the benevolent capitalist .  The character is fascinating and having Colonna in the role appears to be perfect casting.  Goff and Colonna's interactions seem like genuine father/daughter conflict.

Aldophus Cusins (Patrick Poole) is engaged to Major Barbara.  His intentions and motivations are many, and some of them are honorable.  In contrast,  Charles Lomax (Kyle Maddock), who is engaged to Sarah Undershaft (Maryellen Brito) is just a boy in love.  The three actors each give fine performances.  Poole reveals Cusins intention slowly. Maddock and Brito play young lovers who are, mostly, oblivious to the drama unfolding around them.

In the Salvation Army scene the audience is introduced to a handful of supporting characters.  John Michael Richardson turns in a strong performance as Morrison as did F. William Oakes as Snobby Price.  Marilyn Murphy Meardon give a very compelling performance in the small role of Rummy Mitchens.  I hope we will be seeing more of Ms. Meardon at 2nd Story.

To director Ed Shea's credit, 2nd Story Theatre has a talent pool deep enough to fill 15 roles in Major Barbara, with no doubling up of roles.  Erin Olson, Richard Concannon, TJ Paolino, Peggy Becker, and Ryan Maxwell each have few lines in only a couple of scenes.  Each of these actors give fine performances.  There are no small roles.

Major Barbara
is another fine production from 2nd Story, which consistently provides high-quality theatre to Warren, RI.



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From This Author Randy Rice

Randy Rice currently resides in Providence, RI with his husband Aron. His love affair with live performance began in 1988 when he saw Sammy Davis (read more...)