In the early days of the American Revolution Dick Dudgeon, played with easy wit and sly charm by Derek Smith, returns home to New Hampshire to find his family quarreling over his father’s fortune and leaning towards supporting the British in the war. The Devil’s Disciple declares himself a patriot and then finds that may mean making a great sacrifice much to the surprise of the minister’s wife, played with sweetness and verve by Lisa Pelikan. Brimming with Shaw’s lyrical and insightful dialogue and augmented with the sounds of peeling church bells, fife and drums and an anticipatory crowd waiting to see a hanging the play rushes to a rousing conclusion much to the distaste of the sharp-tongued British general played by a wonderfully droll Richard Dreyfuss. Classic theater at its best.
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Reminded me of some of those small town "summer stock" productions I've had to sit through while on vacation -- either that or sit in the cabin with no car while the family went to the town outdoor playhouse for Dutch oven dinner and a play. It's a good cast and a witty little play, and I think people that like every Shaw production they've ever been to will enjoy it, but not for me. Seemed over acted, corny, and dated. Maybe it was the venue. One I would have sneaked out of at intermission... unless my kid was in the cast.
This is one of Shaw's lightest, most sentimental plays, written with such good pacing and such a pleasant touch that despite lacking quite as much of the incisive social commentary of something like "Pygmalion" or "Mrs. Warren's Profession," it's just a pleasure to read, watch, or hear.
This performance, with audience reactions audible, brings it to life. The humor is funny, the sarcasm is witty, the pathos is touching, and the characters are a great deal of fun.
Unlike some of Shaw's more profound works, the roles for women in this are painfully limited: there's the shrewish, selfish, short-sided, Puritan older woman, the child-like, devoted young woman with too few lines, and the sentimental woman in her prime who says a great deal to little effect and shows no insight into anyone, from magnetically attractive strangers to her own husband. I think the highest testimonial I can provide to both the play and this performance that I noticed all that and yet enjoyed it to the hilt nonetheless.
It won't change your world, but it may beguile a couple hours of it.
"Don't listen on public transport!"
Very, very funny and terrifically performed. If you don't know the play, be thrilled... and if you do know it, you'll love it all over again. I was a little concerned about the 'live' audience, but it doesn't distract at all. Brilliant.
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