George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Jeremy Seghers
Starring Theresa Hanson
Fred Stone Theater
Winter Park, FL
You win a war for someone, and this is the thanks you get. The Hundred Year War doesn’t get much popular attention, and it was a low point in European history. England and France were slogging it out about the usual things: who owns what, who gets to be king, and can we starve a few more million people for believing incorrectly. The Catholic church didn’t help, Protestantism nipped at the Pope’s heels and secular leaders were getting the idea they were more important than the priestly class. Out of this morass occasional flashes of brilliance appear; Joan D’arc (Hanson) was a country girl we would diagnose with schizophrenia. She heard voices, and on that advice talked her way into leading a military campaign that was surprisingly effective. Was she executing heavenly orders, or did her bold approach jumpstart the stalemated battle? Her success was unexpected and frankly unwanted, and defending against a charge of heresy took men and horses.
Director Seghers pulled a ton of energy out of this huge script, and even though I didn’t get out till 11:30 pm on a Sunday, this was a gripping and expressive production, especially in the first two acts. Bits of anachronism flashed across the stage; tobacco and polyester suits came after the discovery of the Americas but there’s no need to slavishly go for a period look in every historical play. Newly added sound dampening in the venerable Fred Stone made the listening experience much better than it was in the past. With no program and a cast playing dozens, I’ll guess at a few noteworthy performances. Ms. Hansen glowed with an air of excitement and marginal sanity and even I would consider riding a horse to follow her into battle. Opposite her was the slacker King Charlie (Colton Butcher) who was one step shy of wearing footy PJ’s on his throne. Scott Smith played the clerical power roles and looked like a man who would burn you at the stake for a parking ticket. Lastly, Jim Cundiff wore some nice clown makeup and spit venom as a courier who had some actual sense. If there’s a flaw here it’s the last act: after Joan is put to flame by the caring executioner John Moughan, we get a good twenty minutes of post-game analysis. If you’re a bad king or an unfaithful vassal, you don’t need to mea culpa us after the deed is done. But that’s Shaw, a man of many words writing for an audience that didn’t have Facebook yet.
For tickets and show times, please visit www.eventbrite.com/e/saint-joan-by-bernard-shaw-tickets-35475677707
For other shows at the Fred Stone, visit http://www.rollins.edu/annie-russell-theatre/fred-stone-theatre/index.html