Saturday, April 25, 2020

Arms and the Man

Today, actors from Gingold Theatrical Group live-streamed a reading of Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man to raise money for The Actors Fund. If you didn't catch it, you missed out.

With theatres closed due to COVID-19, a lot of companies have been trying to take shows online, but Actors Equity is understandably worried about performers being exploited. YouTube and other platforms make money off of advertisement on their sites, yet the theatre artists who get filmed never see a penny of the billions made by corporations off of their work.

That's why a number of companies have been working together with Equity to put on one-time-only live-streamed productions that request viewers donate money to The Actors Fund. The performances are not archived (or at least are not supposed to be), but theatre fans can still view them streaming, and as a fundraiser, they generate money to help actors in need get health care, housing, and emergency financial assistance.

Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley have been hosting readings for The Actors Fund on their live-streamed show Stars in the House. In the past, they've featured performances from the original Broadway casts of Mrs. Doubtfire and Urinetown, and the off-Broadway casts of The Little Dog Laughed and Six. Today, however, they had a special treat. GTG's artistic director, David Staller, brought together an all-star cast to do a live reading of Arms and the Man, one of Shaw's funniest plays.

Phillipa Soo played Raina, a young Bulgarian woman who hides a fleeing Swiss soldier who shows up in her bedroom after a battle. Santino Fontana played the soldier, who is disillusioned by war and carries chocolates with him rather than ammunition. Little does he know, Raina is engaged to the dashing Bulgarian officer Sergius Saranoff (Tom Hewitt), who believes in chivalric values with all his heart, even though he's been carrying on flirtations with Raina's maid Louka (Lauren Molina).

This is one of Shaw's "Pleasant Plays"--which means that after much romantic intrigue and shenanigans, all the conflicts are resolved with delightful hilarity. I particularly enjoyed Alison Fraser as Raina's mother, and Daniel Davis was delightful as her husband. How actors manage to have chemistry together while sitting in their own apartments and performing in front of the cameras on their computers is beyond me, but they managed to do it. Daniel Jenkins turned up for a delightful turn as Louka's affianced, and David Staller himself even acted briefly, taking on the role of a Russian soldier.

He also announced that GTG plans a full production of Shaw's The Devil's Disciple this fall on Theatre Row. The show will run all of October and into mid-November. Last year, the company mounted a wonderful production of Caesar and Cleopatra, and the previous year performed a delightful re-imaging of Heartbreak House. I'm looking forward to seeing what they do in the fall... assuming the theatres are open again!