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Shaw comedy is destined for Players

  • Tom Frey, Kraig Swartz, Bridget Beirne and Will Champion talk about George Bernard Shaw’s “The Man of Destiny” Tuesday in The Peterborough Players’ rehearsal hall ahead of the play’s opening next week. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce

  • Bridget Beirne and Will Champion are starring in The Peterborough Players’ production of George Bernard Shaw’s The Man of Destiny opening Aug. 15. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—

  • Kraig Swartz and Bridget Beirne from The Peterborough Players’ production of George Bernard Shaw’s “The Man of Destiny” opening Aug. 15. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce—

  • Tom Frey and Kraig Swartz talk about George Bernard Shaw’s “The Man of Destiny” Tuesday in The Peterborough Players’ rehearsal hall ahead of the play’s opening next week. Staff photo by Meghan Pierce



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, August 09, 2018 10:13AM

George Bernard Shaw’s little done comedy “The Man of Destiny” is hitting the Peterborough Players stage next week.

Taking a break from the Players’ current production of the musical “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Bridget Beirne, Will Champion, Tom Frey and Kraig Swartz sat down in the Players’ rehearsal hall Tuesday to talk about the comedy that rounds out the theater’s productions of all four of Shaw’s self-described Plays Pleasant, which also include “Arms and the Man,” “Candida” and “You Never Can Tell.”

“This is a play about Napoleon Bonaparte, and it’s after the French Revolution and it’s a certain moment in time that he is conducting a campaign in Lodi and he’s been sent to invade Italy,” said Frey, who is playing Napoleon. “This is one of Shaw’s Plays Pleasant, … He had Plays Pleasant and Plays Unpleasant, by his own admission. … So this is a comedy. And this one is very seldom done.”

While waiting at an inn in the Italian countryside for some “very sensitive papers,” Frey said, Napoleon meets a mysterious woman known only as Strange Lady, played by Beirne.

“It becomes a bit of a mystery, a bit of a spy story about who is this woman and why is she here and why does she have information that seems to be very important to Napoleon and the goings on,” Bernie said. “And it becomes a bit of cat and mouse battle of the sexes, I think. It becomes a battle of wits over who can hold onto or disseminate what information and why.”

“And who’s telling the truth when,” Frey added.

Rounding out the cast of characters is Champion as Sub-Lieutenant and Swartz as the innkeeper, Giuseppe Grandi.

“He’s a typical character in Shaw,” Swartz said of the innkeeper. “He’s not immoral, but amoral, working class fellow. Not unlike Eliza’s father, Doolittle, in Pygmalion. … He doesn’t much care what goes on behind closed doors as long everybody pays their bills and nobody gets hurt.”

Champion said his character and Swartz’s innkeeper allow for a lot of class commentary, in the newly post French Revolution Europe.

“The innkeeper and the Lt. form a sort of interesting orbit around the central conflict here and provide excellent fodder for the two central characters to comment on because there is a lot of class commentary that underlies a lot of this play,” Champion said.

Shaw wrote the play in 1897, one hundred years after it was set, in 1796.

Like any good play, from the Greek plays to Shakespeare, Shaw wrote in a way that is still relevant to modern audiences, cast members said.

“I think what Shaw is often trying to get at are emotional realties that are always timeless,” Swartz said.

Frey said having Players’ artistic director Gus Kaikkonen direct also adds to its modern feel.

“I think Gus is really good at pulling out of it what is relative to today on top of the fact that Shaw is a real genius of a writer,” Frey said.

Cast members said to watch for a live chicken as well and Second Company members filling the smaller roles and adding to the show with snippets of opera, Italian folk songs and French ditties.

“The Man of Destiny” opens Aug. 15 and closes Aug. 26.

Tickets are $42 and can be purchased online at www.peterboroughplayers.org or by calling the Box Office at 603-924-7585.

The Peterborough Players is located at 55 Hadley Rd in Peterborough.