ShawChicago’s “Geneva” Review – Shaw at his Wordiest

The cast of "Geneva"


Watching the talented dozen actors ham up George Bernard Shaw’s “Geneva” you can’t help but admire ShawChicago’s track record in making his plays come to life  better in a staged reading than other companies do with fully staged productions  (Director:  Robert Scogin). 


That’s especially so with a play like “Geneva”, where Shaw lets loose his ideological warfare more as script diatribe and least as character or plot development per se.


Chuck Stransky as Bombardone, an Italian Dictator reminiscent of Mussolini


'Geneva” is Shaw’s exposure of the fecklessness of the League of Nations and humanity’s inability to govern itself.  Caricatures of Hitler (Jonathan Nichols), Mussolini (Charles Stransky) and Franco (Matthew Fahey) have parts, as do a Bolshevik Commissar (Jack Hickey), a Bishop (Skip Lundby), a Jewish victim of the Holocaust (Will Clinger), a gun-wielding anti-Semitic Latin-blooded widow (Kate Young), among others. 


Kate Young as A Widow


How interesting to see this play in the week when President Obama makes a visit to the melting glaciers of Alaska to highlight the urgent need for the world to get its act together to address climate change. 


Skip Lundby as an English Bishop, Joe Lehman as a Journalist and Jhenai Mootz as Begonia Brown


In the 1930’s Shaw saw fit to have the characters of “Geneva” fail to advance with common interest when the world was about to end due to an imagined “quantum” shift in orbit. 


Jhenai Mootz as Begonia Brown


Admittedly, this may be a reach.  Sitting through the long and longer ideology-heavy monologues of “Geneva” one does yearn for a connection to the here and now.  Perhaps it’s best to just sit back and admire how Jenai Mootz as a League of Nations secretary turned political sensation, Begonia Brown, engages with voice, wide eyes and tilt of head.  Or, you can revel in how Richard Marlatt’s caricature of pompous Sir Orpheus Midlander makes you wonder how anyone could possibly take a British Lord seriously, just as one imagines Shaw would want you to think.


The cast of "Geneva"


This is a production for Shaw devotees and probably not for those who simply seek a theater outing to be entertained. 


It was interesting to note that the crowd, seemingly older than most attending Chicago’s other productions, also had a healthy number of what seemed to be young adults joining their grandparents to be exposed to Shaw’s brilliance. 


If you can never find time and/or funds to attend the Shaw Festival in Canada make a mental note that local ShawChicago does more than its share to keep Shaw’s works alive.  For information on their yearly productions visit the ShawChicago website.


“Geneva” performances run through September 28.


For tickets call 312 587 7390 or visit the ShawChicago website.




Photos:  Dylan Stuckey

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