The Bay Theatre Company opens the season's third and final production tonight with George Bernard Shaw's comic satire Arms and the Man, which satirizes the Victorian romanticism of Shaw's era. Shaw's comedy should enhance Bay Theatre's reputation for presenting intelligent theater.
At a rehearsal last week, director Lucinda Merry-Browne expressed admiration for Shaw.
"I'm drawn to this play because it is so funny and brings humor to the serious subject of war," she said. "Shaw has given us a very rich play that works on many levels. First he draws us into a romantic story, and then he makes us think.
"Arms and the Man has charm and romance, and great wit. In this play we have seven actors - our largest cast ever, which presented challenges moving them around on our small stage," she said. "But our small space makes Shaw's brilliance seem all the more powerful."
The play was coming together at Saturday's rehearsal, where Merry-Browne worked out details with the actors, costumed as 19th-century Bulgarians and Serbs.
The ensemble's camaraderie was unmistakable, as was Merry-Browne's delight with their professionalism.
The cast is filled with actors making their Bay Theatre debuts, including Sarah Ellis as Raina Petkoff. Raina's mother, Catherine, is played by Helen Hayes Award-winner Rena Cherry Brown. Kinsey Dickey plays Louka. Also debuting at Bay are Peter Wray, an assistant professor of theater at Towson University who plays Capt. Bluntschli; Michael Harris playing Nicola; and Steve Beall as Maj. Petkoff. Karl Kippola, who has acted in and directed previous Bay productions, plays Maj. Sergius Saranoff.
Written in 1894, Shaw's play is based on an 1885 incident in the war between Bulgaria and Austria. The play opens with Serb army fugitive Bluntschli bursting into Raina's bedroom. When the actress playing Raina in the play's first production dropped her pretense and acted naturally, Shaw made theater history. He introduced the realistic acting style that today's audiences are accustomed to but which was revolutionary in 1894.
Shows are at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays through June 4. Free post-performance discussions will be each Sunday of the run. Bay Theatre is at 275 West St., Annapolis.
Tickets are $20 for general admission, and $15 for seniors and students. To reserve seats, call 410-268-1333.