Arms and the Man offers laughter and escape

Aleasha Hintz—Staff Writer

Contributed Photo

COVID-19 has proved itself a near-impossible hurdle for many local events. But as every dutiful thespian knows: the show must go on! The cast and crew of Arms and the Man overcame social distancing, masked rehearsals, and quarantined cast members to put on the fall mainstage.

Arms and the Man, directed by Laurel Koerner, is a comedy that follows the Petkoff family, a proper and idealistic Victorian bunch. The show begins with Major Bluntschli, a mysterious enemy fugitive, breaking into their home and falling to the mercy of young Raina Petkoff. As the script progresses, miscommunications and poorly kept secrets between characters lead to the hilarious – and the unexpected.

The hilarity of this show belongs to the delivery of the characters by its cast. Johanna Christensen gave an impressive performance portraying Catherine Petkoff, the mother of the household. Despite a quarantine for two weeks before the show, Christensen managed to slip into the character of Catherine with ease and consistently drew laughter from the crowd when she shook the poor Captain Bluntschli in his sleep and stuffed her own face with chocolates.

Dakota Klein played this man of mystery. His portrayal of Bluntschli employed a distinctly blunt, macabre sense of humor in his dialogue. His comedy is reflective of one of the show’s themes: the disassembly of idealism. This idea proves a rocky transition for many, with the Petkoffs finding no exception.

“The performance was lively, with every cast member utilizing a consistent dialect”

The performance was lively, with every cast member utilizing a consistent dialect. The learned idealism of Raina Petkoff shone. The petulant nature of Sergius Saranoff was articulated through exaggerated bows, proud puffs of his chest, and spritely walks across the stage. Major Paul Petkoff’s well-timed mustache twitches and booming voice characterized the simultaneous nobility and ignorance in his character. Nicola and Louka, the servants of the household, were conniving. Captain Bluntschli demonstrated himself as much more down to earth, and the honor of the man was obvious.

Contributed Photo

But the show’s success also belongs to the set design. The furniture and props did not overload the set. The costume and makeup design for the show was splendid too. Captain Bluntschli’s tattered coat and the flounce of Raina’s Victorian skirts were lovely underneath the stage lights. But no one can forget an obvious crowd favorite: Major Petkoff’s gray, bushy mustache.

The lighting design for the show was beautifully subtle. When the Petkoffs’ idealism gets the best of them, the lights warm almost imperceptibly, further romanticizing the moment. However, at one point, Raina blows out the lanterns in her room, darkening one corner of the stage at a time. Minutes later, she relights one lantern, and the entire stage lights up. The lack of continuity in this scene was frustrating but not too distracting from the show.

During a time when social gatherings are rare, any opportunity for safe get-together is important. Dordt’s socially distanced fall mainstage was just that. Arms and the Man is a delightful comedy that provided some much-needed reprieve for all who attended.

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