ShawChicago's Major Barbara Review – A Rare Treat

Because Bernard Shaw plays are generally a wonderful experience, and because we had not seen one for a while, my husband and I chose to see Major Barbara now playing at the Ruth Page Center through May 18th.  It was, indeed, an amazing experience that I highly recommend to all of you.  It was our first visit to the Ruth Page Center, which we found to be intimate and the perfect venue for this performance.


Taking our seats, we saw before us on the stage, fourteen chairs and almost as many music stands.  My first thought was that with such a large cast reading, it would be hard to figure out who was who.  How wrong I was.  Very soon, each of the characters took on personalities that were clear and well drawn.  And each member of the cast was outstanding in capturing and holding the exact English accent to convey their station and background. The play was first produced at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1905.


This 110th anniversary production of Shaw’s Salvation Army play suggests that it takes more that bread and molasses to save men’s bodies and souls and that good job and respect for hard work defeats the greatest sin of all:  poverty.  If it is money from drink and explosives that alleviates poverty, is that OK?


Shaw’s language is always a joy to read or listen to but in the hands of these outstanding actors, it was almost music to the ears, with perfect timing and nuanced interactions. Lines were delivered with clarity and crispness – it was sizzling! I met a friend at the performance, who commented that no matter when she sees a Shaw play, it feels current, and certainly that was true of the play.  It may have been explosives and liquor then but what about drones and large corporations now?  This was performed before WWI but interestingly, discussion of war permeates the discussion.



Major Barbara features ShawChicago veterans Gary Alexander, Matthew Gall, Christian Gray, Jack Hickey, Jacqueline Jones, Marsha Kazurinsky, Skip Lundby, Doug MacKechnie, Richard Marlatt, Mary Michell, Jonathan Nichols, Jhenai Mootz, and Barbara ZahoraDanielle Pinnock joins the ShawChicago family for her first production.


In his Salvation Army play, Bernard Shaw shows Major Barbara that it takes more than bread and molasses as bait for saving men’s bodies and souls.  In losing a bet with her long-absent father, the millionaire munitions manufacturer Andrew Undershaft, she finds another way to salvation.  A good job and respect for hard work defeats the greatest sin of all:  poverty.


About ShawChicago

ShawChicago is a non-profit theater company founded in 1994 with a mission to present the classic plays of George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries as concert readings. 


Robert Scogin, ShawChicago’s Artistic Director, is celebrating his twentieth season at ShawChicago where he has directed more than fifty productions of Shaw’s plays. He was the winner of The Chicago Drama League’s 2008 Crystal Award, and has appeared on Broadway and Off-Broadway. He taught and directed Shakespeare and Shaw at the Turkish State Theater Conservatory in Ankara and Konya, Turkey.  In March of 2009 he staged the world premiere of his new adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts on World Theater Day in Konya, Turkey.


About Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was an Irish playwright and master of satire. He was also an essayist, novelist and short story writer. Nearly all his writings address prevailing social problems with a vein of comedy, which makes their stark themes more palatable. Issues which engaged Shaw's attention, included education, marriage, gender equality, religion, nationhood, health care, and class privilege. He remains the only playwright to have won a Nobel Prize for Literature (1925 for his body of work) as well as an Academy Award (1938 for Pygmalion).


The following experiences enhanced our visit: 

1) Discounted parking about two blocks away.  2) Palette & Chisel at 1012 N. Dearborn, next door to the theater where “I fiori della vita”, a charming exhibit of art work is in place until May 4th.  3) Our dinner at “Chicago q restaurant”, located between the theatre and the parking lot at 1160 North Dearborn St (Chicago q Restaurant website)  The meal was very good, dessert outstanding, ambiance pleasant, and service was excellent.

Major Barbara runs from April 25 to May 18 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. Tickets are on sale for $30, with discounts for students and seniors. For more information call ShawChicago at 312-587-7390 or visit  ShawChicago website                               

Photo credit: Dylan Stuckey


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