The current production of Arms and the Man at Constellation Theatre seems to validate Shaw’s view that nothing works as the romantics say it should. The play is set during the Serbo-Bulgarian War and centers on the Petkoff family, particularly, Raina, (Amy Quiggins) the young, impressionable daughter who is engaged to Sergius Saranoff, (Mark Krawczyk) a supposed war hero, but a fool in practical situations. The charge he leads is a success because the enemy had been given the wrongthrough Raina’s window, Captain Bluntschli, (Michael John Casey) a Swiss mercenary who fortifies himself with chocolate instead of bullets. He recognizes a sympathetic depth in Raina, and persuades her and her mother, Catherine, (Ellen Young) to hide him, and after the battle subdues, sneak him out. Raina’s father, Major Petkoff, (Chris Mancusi) the commander of the Bulgarian army, so unknowledgeable of military maneuvers, cannot retrieve his troops from the war. When Bluntschli retu ammunition. Raina supposedly idolizes him, but she is an unconscionable liar, and Sergius, clandestinely, makes love to Louka, (Brynn Tucker) the servant girl. When Bluntschli returns after the war, no longer an enemy, the romantic situation heightens and a resolution gained.
Director, Allison Arkell Stockman chooses to strike the pitch of the production exceptionally high. Mark Krawczyk is appropriate and engaging in this mode. The actors play their parts in bold farcical style, with the exception of Michael John Casey, who acts more organically. He does balance out the frenzy, as does Chris Mancusi, in this small black box theatre, providing relief from the high-pitched tenor of the other actors. Amy Quiggins initially presents a charming and endearing effect as Raina, but her performance is obstructed by the extremes she delivers in voice and action. One wishes for more of a variation in the performances, a balance so that themes of romanticism, class and the idealization of war, the director obviously strives for, may be attained, and resonate in today’s militaristic climate.
A.J. Guban’s set design is magically transforming and his lighting design complements the action of the play, as does the music by composer Jesse Terrill. Kendra Rai’s costumes are romantic and delightful.