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|A CurtainUp Review
Arms and the Man
Set in war-torn Bulgaria, Shaw's story of the Chocolate Soldier and the hero-worshipping maiden who loved him is well known to most theatregoers. If you have somehow missed this marvelous concoction, the Cocteau's more than serviceable production will do the trick of introducing this winning play. If, on the other hand, you know the play well, there is little in this production directed by Ernest Johns to commend it, save for the marvelous performances of Jason Crowl (Captain Bluntschli) and Amanda Jones (Raina).
Indeed, Crowl and Jones are so good, they make the rest of the company seem out of step, as if they (Crowl and Jones) were playing in an altogether different production. Miss Jones captures and holds the audience's attention with her disarming (literally) charm. Jason Crowl offers a performance that exceeds the promise of his earlier successes this season. He continues to mature as an actor, proving once again the benefit to actors of being a part of a true repertory company. His outstanding performance in Tennessee Williams Small Craft Warnings was merely a prelude to his accomplishments here in what is by far the more demanding role. Interesting, Crowl's performances in these two roles suggest that his strength like Jason Robards' lies in playing the world-weary. We can only hope the Cocteau will now consider doing O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night to give Crowl a crack at that great cynic, Jamie Tyrone.
Due to the captivating performances of the two leads, the first and third acts move swiftly and compellingly, but in the second act the performances of Sergius (Mark Rimer), Petkoff (Harris Berlinsky), and the rest of the ensemble lose focus. Here we get the kind of broad, loud performances one would expect of an amateur group. The sets, which wobble and sway with each actor's entrance, do not do much to steady the nerves. But the real problem here is in casting the gigantic Mark Rimer, a most persuasive Oedipus, as Sergius. Dressed in a ludicrously cheesy costume, Mr. Rimer, who has a tendency to strike bug-eyed poses, creates a farcical presence when greater subtlety is called for.
That said, this Shaw takes its place in a remarkably demanding season for this rather heroic company. The best news for theatergoers is that the Cocteau Repertory Company soldiers on.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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