The Pearl Theatre Company
Hal Brooks, Artistic Director
David Staller, Founding Artistic Director
By Bernard Shaw
Directed by David Staller
The Pearl Theatre
555 West 42nd Street
NY, NY 10036
Hannah Cabell, Alec Shaw, Carol Shultz, Bradford Cover
Becky Baumwoll, Cary Donaldson, Richard Gallagher
Dan Daily, Robin Leslie Browne
Scenic Designer: James Noone
Costume Designer: Tracy Christensen
Lighting Design: Michael Gottlieb
Sound Designer: M. Florian Staab
Dramaturg: Kate Farrington
Fight Director: Rob Kinter
Production Stage Manager: April Ann Kline
Production Manager/Tech. Director: Gary Levinson
Press: Blake Zidell & Associates
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 29, 2014 Matinee
Shaw concocted a colorful cast of characters in his 1905 Major Barbara, with Hannah Cabell as its title character, Barbara Undershaft, a guest actor for this Peral Theatre production. Barbara leads Salvation Army parades to benefit the poor. Barbara’s mother, Lady Britomart Undershaft (Carol Schultz), lives in an elegant house in Wilton Cresent, London, with a black and gold embellished, expansive library, with ornate columns. Her son, Stephen (Alec Shaw), and second daughter, Sarah (Becky Baumwoll), lead a comfortable life, even though their father, the industrial magnate, Andrew Undershaft (Dan Daily), has been estranged from the family for decades. Lady Britomart’s maid (Robin Leslie Brown) and butler (Bradford Cover) enter and exit with reverence and a touch of wit. Sarah is engaged to Charles Lomax (Cary Donaldson), and Barbara is engaged to Adolphus Cusins (Richard Gallagher), a scholarly expert in Greek literature.
Lady Undershaft meets with Stephen to fortify the family’s finances, planning ahead for her two daughters. She invites their father to visit, so he can help with future funding. He owns the largest weaponry manufacturing company in London and has an extensive array of contracts, thanks to the popularity of war-making around the globe. Andrew visits Barbara’s charitable, Salvation Army headquarters and is quite impressed. He matches a whisky company’s contribution, and, in spite of Barbara’s objections to money raised from ‘immoral’ sources, Barbara’s boss, Mrs. Baines (Ms. Schultz) eagerly takes his check. The next day, Barbara and family visit, to their astonishment, Andrew’s impeccably clean and organized weaponry factory and outbuildings, where the workers are paid well, with excellent benefits, and there are no complaints. And, from this moment on, the fate of Barbara, and her fiancé, Adolphus, take a sharp turn. Barbara, Sarah, Stephen, the fiancés, and even Lady Undershaft, morph before our eyes.
But, beyond the richly layered plot, with its delicious twists and turns, this production builds bright personalities, as the Pearl is known to do. Director, David Staller (the Pearl’s Founding Artistic Director), takes advantage of the theater’s intimate staging and draws the audience in. As always, Dan Daily, Bradford Cover, Carol Schultz, and Robin Leslie Brown, all resident actors of the Pearl, and most of whom play multiple roles throughout the evening, are riveting in the moment. Mr. Cover and Ms. Brown played boisterous vagrants on a park bench, outside the Salvation Army’s door, between their roles as inhibited, soft-spoken servants in the Undershaft library. Mr. Shaw, Ms. Baumwoll, and Mr. Donaldson also played double or triple roles, entertainingly appearing in each setting. Ms. Cabell and Mr. Daily were in their lead roles throughout, in blazing speeches of society’s mandate to wipe out poverty, debated against government’s right to lobby for war, justifying a massive need for skilled manpower in the weaponry making businesses.
James Noone’s set shifts quickly between scenes and is always eye-catching and heavy in structure, a good fit for this robust, muscular play. Tracy Christensen’s costumes are 1905 London, with black bonnets and long Salvation Army skirts, formally attired Undershafts and servants, and appropriately dingy street characters. Michael Gottlieb’s lighting shifts nicely between the indoor-outdoor scenes. M. Florian Staab’s sound thankfully projects well, as Shaw’s script is so detailed. Apprentices and understudies dress before the audience, into stark black attire, before each act, drawing the audience’s eye to their roles. As scenes change, this ensemble moves small props and furniture about with ease. Kudos to all.
Becky Baumwoll, Hannah Cabell, Dan Daily, Carol Schultz
in Shaw's "Major Barbara"
Courtesy of Richard Termine
Richard Gallagher in Shaw's "Major Barbara"
Courtesy of Richard Termine