Lights come up in shades of blue and violet on the sitting room of an Italian inn. Napoleon Bonaparte sits at a desk, equally dissatisfied with his meal and the map that sits before him. “The Man of Destiny,” the Corsican conquering Italy with a French army, finds himself miserable in the calm after his victory at Lodi.
The late arrival of a subordinate bearing bad news sets the general’s next skirmish into motion, one of words and wits and careful social politicking. The battlefield is set: one couch, two chairs, three conversations, four characters.
Junior Elena Creed directs George Bernard Shaw’s “The Man of Destiny,” — the first of two student-directed one act plays opening tonight at 8 p.m. — as a kind of dismantling of social order, an illustration of all the ways that words, and women, can unsettle the position of great men. The other characters are all unexpectedly casual with General Bonaparte, and the general — played by sophomore James Young, who is closer to the 6 foot mark than the historical 5 foot 6 inches or the mythical 5 foot 2 inches — takes that as the opportunity to test his own self-definitions.
Creed said she picked the play on Professor of Theatre George Angell’s suggestion after she mentioned her enjoyment of another of Shaw’s martial plays, “Arms and the Man.” She said she loved the smart comedy of “The Man of Destiny.”
“I think the humor is really intelligent and the wordplay and the interaction between the characters is extremely well written,” she said.
The dialogue really is sharp, and Shaw clearly had a highly enjoyable time sprinkling subversive sentiments throughout. It is almost excessive in its breadth of social commentary, ranging over everything from the cheapness of human life in war to the natures of public and private honor, but in the end the nature of courage and greatness wins out as the clearest theme.
For such a small play, the theater team put in an impressive amount of effort. The set is excellent, detailed, and textured down to the masonry walls and flagstone floor. The costumes are resplendent, Napo
leon recognizable immediately. The Sub-Lieutenant, played by freshman Austin Benson, wears a uniform as sharp as his sabre and shiny as his buttons. Giuseppe Grandi the innkeeper, played by freshman Dylan Strehle, looks as successful as his name. The other guest, Strange Lady, played by senior Megan Scott, wears an almost Baroque dress.
“I love collaborating with people and I really enjoyed working with my cast,” Creed said. “Just working together to bring these characters to life was a really unique experience and really fun.”
Audience members, Creed hopes, are in for an evening of wit and laughter.