“Arms and the Man” at Seattle Public Theater at the Bathhouse

George Bernard Shaw—enemy of hypocrisy, pacifist, independent thinker, socialist, winner of the 1925 Nobel prize for literature, and author of “Arms and the Man.” The play was first produced in 1894 yet its rapier wit still resonates, and the targets of Shaw’s disdain are still worthy of scorn.

Shaw has little use for pretension or posturing, and the Bulgarian upper class family at the center of this work is filled with both. The family members deem themselves to be at the top of the social scale, and every proud boast simply reveals their lack of sophistication.

As the play opens, Bulgaria is at war. When a Swiss mercenary fighting for the other side hides in their house their lives are changed.

Seattle Public Theater’s production of this little gem starts a bit slowly. But the energy builds, and the second act is delicious. The acting is generally good, some outstanding. Brenda Joyner as Louka the maid has a plum part, and she makes the most of it. Frank Lawler as the Swiss Captain charms not only the ladies of the family but the audience too.

Director Shana Bestock clearly loves this antiwar and proto-feminist play. She’s given us a rendition well worth seeing.

Through June 10 at the Bathhouse, 7312 W. Greenlake Drive N., Seattle (206 524-1300 or www.seattlepublictheater.org).

 

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