I recently re-read and reviewed Shaw’s Man and Superman (Penguin Classics). I was not overwhelmed, so I decided to give another of his more famous works a try, for the first time. Alas, I found this work even less satisfying.
This play first premiered twenty years before the commencement of the First World War. The setting is the Balkans, the source of much conflict. Events in the Balkans would be immediate cause of the “Great War.” Almost 30 years earlier, those tangled alliances and competing ethnic rivalries were very much extant, demonstrated by the Battle of Slivnitsa. It was a “proxy war,” of sorts. Bulgaria, on the one side, with Russian generals commanding their troops. The other side was Serbia, with Austrian generals. Bulgaria decisively won this battle. The play commences at the immediate aftermath of the battle. For the commencement of WWI, the Russians had changed sides, and were supporting their Orthodox “brothers,” the Serbs, against Austria.
The setting is an upscale room of the Petkoff’s, a leading and rich Bulgarian family. Catherine is approximately 40, her daughter, Raina, 23. She is engaged to Sergius Saranoff, who has just lead a successful cavalry charge in the battle. Suddenly a man breaks into the room, seeking refuge. Turns out he is a Swiss mercenary officer, who did not go to the highest bidder, but rather the first country in the conflict that he came to, when traveling from Switzerland. Shaw plays to the national stereotype, and the officer loves his chocolates, more than bullets even, and is henceforth called the “chocolate soldier.”
Slapstick abounds. Russian officers break into the house, in pursuit of the “chocolate soldier,” whose name is Captain Bluntschli. He is hiding behind the curtain, and is protected by Raina and Catherine, even though Raina’s fiancé had just been in a battle attempting to kill Bluntschli. In addition to the “geopolitical tangles,” Shaw stirs in star-crossed romantic tangles as well, with the forthright and head-strong maid, Louka, playing a prominent role. There is a reasonable amount of social criticism as well, none too shocking for today, but perhaps for the time it was: there is the ever-so-familiar, and ever-so-repeated “folly of war,” and there are the various affairs that the “gratin” of Bulgarian society are engaged in.
For better or worse, for most of two decades my theater-experiences were mainly in Riyadh. The selection of plays was not overwhelming: usually only one, in an expat compound. Comedies of mistaken identity seemed to be a frequent choice, with the denouement being a cheerful resolution and a happy ending. Sometimes I wanted to scream, but these singular plays “were the only game in town.”
Thus, I saw Shaw’s play largely through that Riyadh prism, and therefore may be demonstrating my bias against light-hearted comedies when I rate this play 3-stars.
- 语种： 英语
- ISBN: 1420927051
- 条形码: 9781420927054
- 商品尺寸: 12.7 x 0.5 x 20.3 cm
- 商品重量: 99.8 g
- ASIN: 1420927051
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