Leverett House had the noble idea of honoring Shaw's hundredth birthday by performing two of his one-act plays. Although neither is more than mediocre, enthusiastic acting often makes a potentially plain evening bright.
The Shewing-Up of Blanch Posnet is a languid Western yarn, a genre in which the writer proves himself very ill at ease. Shaw is no cowboy. Neither is his hero, it must be admitted: Blanco is a kicking cousin of Dick Dudgeon, a would-be Hotspur in Levis and a grizzly beard, whose poetic force is out of place amid long-jawed neighbors. Blanco's tale is simple. He steals a horse. After a few twists involving first a slut then the mother of a just-dead baby, he is set free. The whole situation seems rather tired, as do Shaw's lines.
The actors and directors, on the other hand, put some life into the old West. Micheal Medearis is splendid as Blanco, and used a strong voice and glowering eyes skillfully. Blanco' brother, a preaching, liquor-selling village elder, is played by John Baker with very appropriate pomposity and effectively over-eloquent gestures. A local strutting, drawling, over-eager youth buck is neatly created by Dick Cattani. Phyllis Ferguson is graceful and strong in the role of the town bed-warmer, while Mary Wild looks excellent as she broods sadly through the role of the grieving mother. The director, Beverly Bourns, molds her cast with a good eye for placing people around an efficient, simple stage, designed by Donald Adam. The costumes by Marjorie Meeks, are appropriate.
The second work of the evening, Man of Destiny, has one bright aspect, but joins Blanco as a rather weak play. It concerns Napoleon, a man whom Shaw shows as a bad little boy who stamps his foot, spits, and glowers when he can't have his lollypops. In this case the lollypops are dispatches, which the general must procure from a lovely, wide-eyed female spy who is the only really bright thing in the play. She is arrogant and clever, scheming and talkative, and of course beats Napoleon. Paula Cronbach wanders into this femme fatale role with a beguiling innocence that can suddenly turn into astonishing alertness and wit. As Napoleon, Edward McKirdy succeeds, but not so smoothly. He seems to realize that Shaw's portrait of the general as a young man is weak, and that Shaw's Napoleon talks so much and acts so little that the man of destiny would probably have remained a corporal. McKirdy is on occasion fiery and fierce, and is at his best when he shouts. His physical presence is a skillful representation of Napoleon, especially when he turns his back on the audience and acts only via a clenched fist.
The role of the forceful general's limp lieutenant is made intriguing by Arnold Graham. He has a very effective voice, but his rather loose posture and hesitant sense of balance can be distracting. Richard Klinger plays an innkeeper with grace and tact. He has one significant line: "That leaves me nothing to do but talk, and that suits me fine."
Although this is a bad week-end for theater, Leverett House has worked energetically to produce a pleasant evening from unpromising Shavian dregs.