UVU’s season opening play leaves audiences questioning, yet delighted
Photo courtesy UVU School of the Arts
UVU Theatre Department’s season opener, “Major Barbara,” is a discussion presented in three acts that tries to answer the questions of right, wrong, and the price of salvation.
Originally written in 1905 by Dr. George Bernard Shaw in England, the production presents these questions through ideals and experiences, pertinent to that time period and setting. For example, when the audience is introduced to the title character, Barbara Undershaft (Kaitlin Lemon), she is enthusiastically involved with the Salvation Army. Undershaft becomes disillusioned by her father, munitions manufacturer Andrew Undershaft (Brett Griffeth) when the Salvation Army openly accepts a large donation despite their opposition to war.
As the play continues, more characters are introduced and provide their own ideas as to answer the questions that arise. Barbara presents the audience with an idealistic view of the world that is contrasted by the cynicism of Andrew. Balance between the two conflicting outlooks is portrayed through the realistic perspective of Charles Lomax (Kristopher Miles.)
With excellent performances from the cast, particularly Lemon and Griffeth, by the end of the final act, no clear answer is given for the questions presented. When asked what the answers were, Kaitlin Lemon said, “We [as a cast] had a really hard time even figuring out an answer to the whole moral question… I don’t even think even Shaw knew what the answer was.”
When asked the same question, Kristopher Miles remarked, “I think in the end, all three [ideas] come together…I don’t think this play supports that there is no solid right.” Whatever the ideas of the actors, the audience is without a clear answer and is left to ponder for themselves what is truly right and wrong.
Outside of the remarkable performances by the cast, the direction, costuming, and set design add greatly to the positive experience enjoyed by the audience. Despite the awkwardness of the performance space, Kacey Spadorfa’s direction was incredibly helpful for the audience to feel engaged by the performance. The costume design by Javi Ybarra also lends a hand in understanding the situations presented more fully. Despite the simplicity of the set design, the work done by Jessie Pusey is marvelous.
While the audience is still left with major moral questions, there is no question that this production is a unique and powerful choice for the opening of the 2015-16 season. Despite the obscure script and inconvenient performance space, the show is an experience not to be forgotten.