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Sophomore James Young and freshman Dylan Strehle perform in “The Man of Destiny,” April 7-9 in the Black Box. Elena Creed | Courtesy
Sophomore James Young and freshman Dylan Strehle perform in “The Man of Destiny,” April 7 – 9 in the Black Box. Elena Creed | Courtesy

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.