New Monitor review of “Major Barbara”

Shaw’s ‘Maj. Barbara’ at WSU’s Hilberry

By Robert Delaney

Read original article here.

A Salvation Army major’s faith is challenged by the cynical code of her wealthy father in George Bernard Shaw’s “Major Barbara,” the latest production at Wayne State’s Hilberry Theatre in Detroit.

Director Carolyn M. Gillespie and a fine cast of grad student actors faithfully bring Shaw’s 1905 play to today’s Detroit audiences.

Danielle Cochrane – in her first year at the Hilberry, but whom many theatregoers will remember from her undergraduate years in Bonstelle productions – is the earnest Major Barbara, the daughter of a munitions mogul, who has left the comfortable world of the wealthy to minister to the denizens of London’s slums.

Edmund Alyn Jones, Brent Griffith, Danielle Cochrane

Barbara is alive with zeal for moral and spiritual uplift, but is scandalized when her superiors in the Army accept a donation from her amoral father, the armaments maker, played by Edmund Alyn Jones.

Cochrane is impressive as Barbara, and it is good to think that we’ll be seeing more of her during her three years with the Hilberry program.

But it is arguably Jones who steals the show as her father, Undershaft, with his unapologetic advocacy for his own code of pure avarice.

Shaw was a foe of both religion and capitalism, but he makes the character of Undershaft as memorable a devil as Mephistopheles, and Jones gives a memorable portrayal of the role.

The production also benefits from fine performances in other roles, notably those of Brent Griffith as Barbara’s scholarly boyfriend, Adolphus, and Andrew Papa as the tough character, Bill Walker.

I suppose set designer Rudolph C. Schuepbach’s use of wooden packing crates as the furnishings of both Barbara’s mother’s house and the Salvation Army chapel, in addition to having them in the munitions factory scene, was intended to underscore that the family’s wealth and even the support for the chapel rested on the munitions factory. If so, he made his point, but I can’t say I liked it.

But then, I’m not really a great fan of Shaw either. And between Shaw and the Salvation Army, I don’t think there can be much doubt about which has been of the most benefit to mankind.

 

SHOW DETAILS:“Major Barbara” continues in rotating repertory through May 5 at the Hilberry Theatre, at Cass and West Hancock on the Wayne State University campus. For performance and ticket information, call 313-577-2972 or go to www.wsushows.com.

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