Ethington is all ‘Arms’ in for second play

October 04, 2019 / by / 0 Comment

By Ashlee Larrison
Photos by Mathew McGraw
GCU News Bureau

After making audiences laugh out loud with the hilarity of “One Man, Two Guvnors” earlier this semester, Grand Canyon University’s Theatre Department is taking a more romantic comedy route with its second production of the season. It is a performance College of Fine Arts and Production Dean Claude Pensis says will showcase a “witty” form of humor.

McKenna Kollman and Micah Larsen portray Raina and Bluntschli in GCU’s production of “Arms and the Man.”

“Ultimately you spend time with some quirky, funny people who engage in some very smart and witty dialogue, and when it’s done, it’s very much a feel-good play,” Pensis said of the production, playing at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 13 at Ethington Theatre. (Get tickets here.)

“Arms and the Man,” which originated as an antiwar play, takes place during the Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885 and showcases a cast of colorful characters and the paths they take to find true love. The play was written by famed playwright George Bernard Shaw and was considered to be one of his first commercial successes.

“I think it’s one of Shaw’s masterpieces,” Pensis said. “It’s one of his most successful and funniest plays.”

Bluntschli (Larsen), Sergius (Christian Bradford) and Paul Petkoff (Alexander Cavanaugh), from left, discuss the fate of Raina’s engagement.

Ethington’s production will showcase the work of guest scenic designer Jeff Thomson, who previously designed for Cirque du Soleil. It also will feature a revolving set, designed by Thomson, to allow for multiple backdrops.

“It’s going to look very pretty, it’s going to sound very pretty and it’s going to be unique in its own way,” said Micah Larsen, who portrays Bluntschli.

“The direction for sure is what makes this play unique. Claude is really good about world-building and making an entirely different world than the one we are already residing in onstage, so you definitely get a sense of its own universe when you watch the play.”

Larsen also highlighted “Arms and the Man’s” “different” sense of humor.

“It might not be the typical laugh-out-loud that you’d expect but rather an intelligent comedy,” Larsen said. “Instead of super laugh-out-loud, it’s more of a refreshing comedy.”

Raina (left) and Catherine (Julia Jones, right) calm down Paul Petkoff (Cavanaugh).

Alexander Cavanaugh, who takes on the role of Paul Petkoff, said this production allowed him to experiment with a new type of character.

“It’s fun to play a character that just is a little more jolly,” he said. “I end up playing a lot of serious characters just because it’s my type and it’s something that people look for, but it’s fun to play a character that’s a little happier and a little jollier and is just glad to be where he is.”

Cavanaugh was drawn to audition for this production because of his fascination with how the 123-year-old theatre work has been able to still resonate with audiences.

Bluntschli (Larsen) and Raina (Kollman) share a kiss near the end of the production.

“I think it’s super interesting sort of the way it holds up over time and the way that the meaning shifts,” Cavanaugh said. “Since the play was originally an antiwar piece, how we’re honing in now on the romantization and the way we present ourselves versus how we actually are as people, it’s cool to see how that translates today and holds up as a piece of art.”

Part of what helps the play defy the hands of time is the messages within the timeless production. Christian Bradford, who portrays Sergius, believes audiences will take home some important messages from the play.

“There’s a ton of good messages in this show about how we as people can idealize the world around us and how we can view different things and we can kind of elevate them to the status that they’re really not at in reality,” Bradford said. “It’s very much so about romanticized love versus real love and the difference between love for the sake of kind of fluff and that very kind of Disney-style love verses what love is actually like.

“It’s simply stunning.”

The “Arms and the Man” cast brought George Bernard Shaw’s play to life.

As to why one should see the play, Larsen sums it up: “Live theatre is, in my opinion, one of the most magical experiences that a person can experience, and Shaw is no different,” Larsen said. “I think his plays are important to consume, and if you’re looking for an entertaining evening and for a good laugh, come see ‘Arms and the Man.’”


What: “Arms and the Man” by George Bernard Shaw

When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 13

Where: Ethington Theatre

Tickets: $12 admission. Discounted tickets for senior citizens, military personnel, GCU and GCE employees, GCU alumni, children 12 years old and younger, and GCU students.

Information: 602-639-8800 or [email protected]

Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]


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