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The Niagara Blog:     Fourteen Reasons - why to see Shaw's Peace in Our Time

Diana Donnelly as Belle Browning and Jeff Meadows as The Secretary to the League of Nations. Photo by Emily Cooper
Diana Donnelly and Jeff Meadows

Having read the mean-spirited review of Peace in Our Time in the Toronto Star, written by theatre critic, food critic, travel critic, you-name-it-critic, Richard Ouzounian, I was eager to see the play, and afterwards, it was obvious once again that we did not see the same play. In fact, my spouse and I and the rest of the appreciative audience assembled in Niagara on the Lake's tiny Court House Theatre thoroughly enjoyed Director Blair Williams' and playwright John Murrell's take on Shaw's original piece called Geneva. Over the years, I have come to highly value Mr. Ouzounian in similar inverse manner that I prize Jeff Simon, the movie critic for the Buffalo Evening News. Whatever is panned, I love; whatever is praised, I hate. There are my many reasons why you should see Peace in Our Time. Here are my top 14:

Ric Reid as Der Fuhrer. Photo by Emily Cooper   Sanjay Talwar as The Senior Judge, Neil Barclay as Il Duce and Ric Reid as Der Fuhrer Photo by Emily Cooper

#1 it offers one quite a powerful cast at Mr. Williams' command. #2, it's genuinely funny, and after watching the lunchtime mini plays, a welcome relief from heavy duty drama. #3, the three featured dictators are amazing. We would blindly follow them anywhere. Lorne Kennedy uses his leather riding crop to great advantage as "El Generalísimo," aka Francisco Franco. Ric Reid takes Der Führer, aka Adolph Hitler from someone who would annihilate the Jews in Germany to a little boy crying over the fate of his pet at the end. Neil Barclay is indeed larger than life as Il Duce, aka Benito Mussolini, and he uses his size and voice to out-muscle the other players to great advantage.

#4, the costumes designed by Victoria Wallace are detailed and superb, and one of the joys of being in the Court House is that we always get a great up-close view. #5, set designer Camellia Koo has achieved amazing results with limited space, utilizing unique metaphor in one instance with a small window in the otherwise drab administrative UN office, simulating the kind of microscopic view an astronaut enjoys of planet earth which suits the theme and again later on, a globe is employed to assist Sanjay Talwar as the Senior ICJ Judge in demonstrating that our world does in fact regularly end, and that we had best make the best of it. #6, Claire Jullien is hilarious as the gun-toting, passionate Doña Dolores Ochoa lusting over every English word that contains the consonant "j." Her outfit is as wild as is her take on this Latin femme fatale.

Diana Donnelly as Belle Browning and Claire Jullien as Dona Dolores Ochoa. Photo by Emily Cooper  Diana Donnelly as Belle Browning and Ric Reid as Der Fuhrer photo by Emily Cooper  Diana Donnelly as Belle Browning, Kevin McGarry as Bob Tarkenton, Michael Ball as Bishop Isling and Moya OConnell as Commissar Elizaveta Poskaya. Photo by Emily Cooper   Moya OConnell as Commissar Elizaveta Poskaya and Neil Barclay as Il Duce. Photo by Emily Cooper   Neil Barclay as Il Duce and Patrick Galligan as The British Foreign Secretary Photo by Emily Cooper   Peace in our Time, A Comedy, Photo illustration by Emily Cooper

#7, how often do you get to see attractive Moya O'Connell of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof fame look severe and sexless as the Russian Commissar Elizaveta Poskaya? She reminds one of that malevolent Russian Colonel, Rosa Klebb of SMERSH, equipped with a knife in her shoe who tries to kill James Bond in From Russia With Love. #8, Diana Donnelly as Belle (as in Liberty Belle) Browning gets us off to some quick laughs at the start as she daydreams, flirts and gradually becomes the stereotypical American with just a shade too much enthusiasm and ego for the U.S. of A., continually reminding us that Ohio really is superior to Indiana. #9, in contrast, Andrew Bunker is amusing as Darcy Middleman, even his name expressing Canadian concern for quiet and decorum and he demonstrates knowledge of the history of most other countries yet not his own. #10, Patrick Galligan is adroitly smooth as the British Foreign Secretary embodying a "Don't-Mess-With-Texas" attitude along with a suave, debonair approach to all others who obviously are not of the same station. One is transformed immediately into Downton Abbey inside the Master's Room.

#11, Michael Ball even milks death for a few extra laughs as Bishop Isling (whose name reminds me of Stephen Leacock's use of Rev. Drone) and he perishes a la Buster Keaton with a coronary caused by the aforementioned hot tamale, Clair Jullien, Doña Dolores Ochoa, who resembles a heat-seeking missile wildly waving her weapon in the air. #12, Jeff Meadows is perfect as the beleaguered Secretary to the League of Nations, trying to bring order to the perpetual disarray yet never quite succeeding in the task even when standing on a table, towering over the rest in the courtroom scene. #13, the courtroom scene, itself, with Sanjay Talwar looking like a tennis referee in his elevated chair above the court, and yes, wouldn't it be neat if the International Court of Justice could actually deal with the likes of modern day dictators as it does here with former megalomaniacal WWII leaders?

#14, Kevin McGarry as Bob Tarkenton lurking behind trees as an aggressive investigative reporter and one-time paramour to Miss Liberty Belle, is everything that Wolf Blitzer is not, animated, eager and resolute. Charlie Gallant as the German Jew, Joseph Rubinstein, bears well under the same weighty problem as Ric Reid who plays Hitler. How does one make either humorous? Their one brief pas de deux in court poses striking intensity, and it's a good call by Williams in this case in that the contrasting hilarity is enhanced.

The phrase "peace for our time" derives from a speech on 30 September 1938 by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain concerning the Munich Agreement and the Anglo-German Declaration. It echoed Benjamin Disraeli, who upon returning from the Congress of Berlin in 1878 stated "I have returned from Germany with peace in our time." It's ironic as the German occupation of the Sudetenland began on the following day, and less than a year after the agreement, following aggression from Germany with its invasion of Poland, Europe was plunged into World War II.

Peace in Our Time runs until Oct. 12 at the Court House Theatre. Call: 1-800-511-SHAW.
I recommend that you see it!

Jeff Meadows as The Secretary to the League of Nations and Sanjay Talwar as The Senior Judge. Photo by Emily Cooper

Neville Chamberlain
The following statement was made by British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, in front of #10 Downing Street, London, after his arrival home from the notorious Munich Conference of 1938

We, the German Fuhrer and Chancellor, and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for our two countries and for Europe.
We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.
We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries, and we are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference, and thus to contribute to assure the peace of Europe.
My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is "peace for our time." Go home and get a nice quiet sleep

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