Thursday, October 26, 2006


On Saturday, between Matins and evening Declamacion!, I went to see "Arms and the Man" a play by Bernard Shaw. Shaw's sparkling plays are rarely staged these days, especially in my neck of the woods. You can therefore imagine my joy when I found out that this particular play, which I read many times, but had never seen performed, was being staged at the very time I was staying there! I caught a matinee, the one but last of its performance!

The Theatre, where the play is performed, is a quaint little place in a pretty shabby looking building in Greenwood. From what I could see, Greenwood appeared to be a blue-collar neightbourhood. In the immediate vicinity of the threatre, I spotted two thrift shops and a wonderful educational toy store. I found this mixture of humility and genuine culture a most refreshing diversion from the glitz of downtown Seattle's fashionable shops and endless restaurants and hotels.

The theatre itself is Shakespearean, that is, the stage is not an enclave in the wall, separated from the audience by curtains but rather an extension into the theatre, with people seated around it. Sometimes the actors would come in from the wings, sometimes through the main doors. The "Khan" theatre in Jerusalem favours the same arrangement. It creates an intimacy between the viewers and the actors, as though we are being included in the unfolding story. I suppose this is a feature characteristic of small theatres with a special repertory.

The play itself was absolutely delightful. I could not have hoped for better. The actress played Raina's the semi-hysterical, stylized, whimsical romanticism with perfect pitch. She was an Elizabeth Bennet struggling to extricate herself from a Marianne Dashwood packaging, and she could not achieve this metamorphosis without the love of a good man. And the good man was everything she had always thought was the wrong man for her. She is completely surprised by her own discernment, as she senses that this chocolate-cream soldier, who would rather hide in her bedroom than be heroically killed, was actually more manly and brave than the swaggering (though essentially charming and good hearted) Bulgarian military officer, Sergius. Eventually, they all learn to substitute their high-faluting false notes of pretensions and shallow passions for real life commitments.

"Soldiering, my dear madam, is the coward's art of attacking mercilessly when you are strong, and keeping out of harm's way when you are weak. That is the whole secret of successful fighting. Get your enemy at a disadvantage; and never, on any account, fight him on equal terms."

"My rank is the highest known in Switzerland: I'm a free citizen."

Hear! Hear! Hooray to GBS!