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Man And Superman: A Comedy And A Philosophy
by Bernard Shaw
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How tantalizing to hear Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient, Schindler's List) but not be able to see him! And hear him one does in his role as Jack Tanner, the antihero of Shaw's 1905 classic drama Man and Superman. Fiennes is a veritable mouthpiece--and a frequently sarcastic one at that--for the burning issues on Shaw's philosophical and social laundry list: the state of the English working class, the arms race, women's rights, unwed mothers, the evils of industry and capitalism, and English morality in general. The seriousness of the discussions is tempered by delightful Shavian wit ("There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart's desire. The other is to gain it."), which prevents the dialogue from collapsing under its own weight, although it does teeter at times. The four-act play, directed by the esteemed Peter Hall for BBC Radio, begins in the English countryside and ends in the mountains of Spain after a curious detour to Hell, where, in act 3, the famous dream sequence unfolds and the main characters take on such roles as Don Juan and the Devil to further hash out the meaning of existence, the definition of life force, and the power of the female sex. This is a spirited production of Shaw's imperfect but intellectually challenging work. (Running time: 225 min; four cassettes)
Shaw's comic, intellectual masterpiece concerns a descendant of Don Juan Tenorio, who is pursued by a woman he loves but doesn't like. The story is explicated in a dream--a conversation in hell between Juan, a very charming Satan and two other characters. Sir Peter Hall has directed a distinguished cast in the whole magilla which features witty musical bridges based on Mozart's Don Giovanni. The ensemble gives us a lusciously droll performance, which highlights the intellectual vigor of the playwright's wittily presented ideas. They show off what Shaw did best, namely, making ideas dramatic, arresting and funny. Nearly stealing the show, John Wood plays the Spanish/Jewish brigand, Mendoza, who appears in the dream as Satan. His sense of mischief mirrors the playwright's own. Y.R. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine
1903. Many of Shaw's early plays were either banned by the censor or refused production. He began the practice of writing the challenging, mocking, eloquent prefaces to his plays, which were sometimes longer than the play itself. In 1925 he won the Nobel prize. In Man and Superman an idealistic, cerebral man succumbs to marriage. The play contains the almost equally famous dream sequence of Don Juan in Hell. See other titles by this author available from Kessinger Publishing.
Inside Flap Copy
Man and Superman was the first drama to be broadcast on the BBC's Third Programme on October 1st, 1946. To celebrate Radio 3's 50th anniversary, the play has now been directed by Sir Peter Hall, and preserved for all time in this lush audio dramatization.
"A comedy and a philosophy," Man and Superman is based on the Don Juan theme and, using all the elements from Mozart's Don Giovanni, Shaw reordered them so that Don Juan becomes the quarry instead of the huntsman. Boasting an outstanding cast including Ralph Fiennes, Juliet Stevenson, Dame Judi Dench, John Wood, Nicholas Le Prevost and Paul Merton, this four cassette release includes an exclusive interview with director Sir Peter Hall.
About the Author
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was one of the most prolific writers of the modern theater. He invented the modern comedy of ideas, expounding on social and political problems with a razor-sharp tongue, yet never sacrificing the comic vitality that ensures regular revivals of his plays. He also wrote several important political works, including The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism.
Dan H. Lawrence, edited Shaw's Collected Letters, his Collected Plays with their Prefaces, and Shaw's Music and (with Daniel Leary) The Complete Prefaces. He is Series Editor for the works of Shaw in Penguin.
Stanley Weintraub is Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Arts and Humanities at the Pennsylvania State University. He is the author and editor of 20 books about Shaw including Private Shaw and Public Shaw. He has edited Shaw's diaries and his art criticism, and is the former editor of The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies.
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