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[info]tigresslilly wrote
on October 28th, 2007 at 07:24 pm

Major Barabra REview

Major Barbara

There are a lot of things about a play that really come out when one views it on stage. The viewer really begins to get a chance to scrutinize the dialog, characters, and flow of the play. When I viewed Major Barbara I noticed a lot of things that I wanted to keep away from in my writings.
The first thing that stunk me was how long the characters talked. This may have stood out more for me because I am often too long winded too. Still, I felt like often the characters went on and on about the same things or things that could have been summarized. Timing is really important, and messing it up is an easy way to turn an audience off to your work.
Even in the first scene between mother and son, there are too many words. Some of this can be excused because it seems the mother is always rather round about, but even then I was watching the first scene wishing it would rap up. I found that after the first minute of this kind of speech between Mom and son I didn't really care what was going on anymore, I just wanted the play to keep going.
Another aspect that would have helped to cut down dialog is all the reexplaining that happened on stage. The son and audience learn that dad is coming home and then the children come on stage and learn, surprise surprise, dad is coming home. Why couldn't those characters have already known dad would be home? Why did we need to see an almost non-response from them over this change of events? Wouldn't their thoughts have been clear based off of how they acted when he arrived? Neither of the characters are very stoic.
Something else that got tired fast of the repetition of how “special” Barbara was. I mean if she's that special how come, I as an audience member can't see that on my own or with little prompting. The play is called Major Barbara, do we really need to beat a dead horse by having a conversation at least once a scene about how special Barbara is. This is especially frustrating to me, because as far as I could tell from what was presented Barbara is the regular humanitarian who is blinded to everything except her cause. Nothing about her naivety or passion seems special, unique, or particularly valuable.
We could have also lost all the scenes where differing characters confront Barbara's fiancée about how much he loves her. He always admits it. He always references a time someone else mentioned it and he admitted it then. Why is this important?
These areas move on to the importance of having interesting and relatable characters. Major Barbara's characters were relatable, but they weren't particularly interesting. Charles is funny, but really straight forward. There is no surprise or mystery there. What is most interesting is that the mother tells her son she likes Charles best, but she is always reprimanding him while complimenting Adolphus. Since this thread never goes anywhere though, and Charles remains a nice but oblivious comic relief guy, thre is little to look at.
I liked Adolphus until he became far too wordy in the second act of the play. Part of what I liked was his brevity. It showed he was a truly intelligent man to sum up so many ideas so succintly, when he got so wordy in the second act I lost a lot of interest. Another aspect I like on him was that he was a little amoral. It was clear in the first act that he'd been part of differing religions, and he also showed acceptance of morality when presented in a logical way. Then suddenly he grows concerned about dawning certain moralities or accepting certain ideas. It isn't the same scholar we saw before and he officially becomes boring.
I didn't like how incredibly convenient it was that Adolphus was technically a bastard child. I don't like how everyone accepted it and I don't like how it was just poof, clean story resolution. To me it reeked of deux ex machina. What would have been interesting would have been the son not only realizing that the father's work is brilliant but wanting the plant. It would have been neat to see him struggle to earn it or to see if the father would reconsider. Since the son is so bumbling and self righteous it would have been interesting to watch him quite likely fail and hate himself for working there.
Something else I noticed about Major Barbara is that the play happened over at least three days. Day one is the father's return, day to is the salvation army, and day three is the gun factory. I'm not sure how I feel about that. As the audience I felt the length. I felt like that play was never going to end. I wonder if some of the perception of length has to do with how many different days were in the play and how it stretched across about half a week.
Something else important to consider is theme. Major Barbara is largely a morality play. Since I wasn't a fan of what was being presented, it made it harder to enjoy the play. There are lots of problems with the Salvation Army besides funding, one of which is my strong anti-proselytizing sentiments. Since this is a period piece I don't really expect them to address this, but I feel like a lot of what is going on is out dated in a lot of ways. Since making guns is necessary, same as a garbage man, or a sewer cleaner, I don't see the big deal. War is part of our life and I can't help but be annoyed at the Victorian righteousness against someone who makes the weapons. Maybe that was a big problem for me on a personal level. I really couldn't stand the self righteous airs of the characters or the presumptuous themes offered to the audience. This probably has less to do with this play and more to do with my personal taste. Themes should be wide and open to a lot of audiences, but it is really difficult to make a play that everyone will enjoy or agree with. There is a fine line between a morality play and an entertaining one, for me this crossed the line, but really the lesson here is just to be very careful. Things can get preachy very quickly.
Over all, Major Barbara probably wasn't my style of play. I still learned a lot about things to watch out for and things I didn't want to do, but as a viewer I have to be careful to walk the line between looking at things that did and didn't work and looking at what I liked or didn't like. In some cases this can be the same thing. In other cases I need to be careful to try and acknowledge other's styles and desires. It is important for play writers to make sure their plays don't become too stylized or stuck up in their own personal meanings.

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