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Monday, April 23, 2018

Major Barbara @ PCS

Sometimes it is unavoidable that the viewer puts his own feelings into a work of art. There are moments in "Major Barbara" which, to me, suggest clear satire of unfettered capitalism. Chief among them is the final scene, in which arms-dealer Andrew Undershaft mounts a rousing defense of his business, and capitalism itself, all the way down to caring not at all about which side he is arming in a given conflict. Previous mottoes of the munitions-factory are projected on a screen throughout the show, culminating in the least nuanced of all, simply "unashamed," which I took as Shaw's backhanded assertion that we should indeed be ashamed. This interpretation was bolstered by overhearing someone in my row hiss "Satan!" at the end of Undershaft's speech. But, spurred-on by actor Brian Weaver's interpretation that the play is a "shameless defense of capitalism" I unearthed that Shaw had written a preface to the published edition in which he comes out against the idea of rejecting money for a good cause due to the morally impure source of that money. This surprised me, due to other scenes in the show that suggest Shaw believed the opposite.  Barbara's about-face on many issues also seems rather abrupt, if they are not meant to show the seduction of a pure-heart by  temptations of wealth, and questionable pragmatism. Departing director Chris Coleman notes that Shaw was a leading Progressive of his time, which undercuts the idea of trumpeting the virtues of capitalism.  On the whole, the play is a debate, and all good debates must be fair to all sides. "Major Barbara" is fair above all else, this makes for a good show.

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