ARMS AND THE MAN
AN ANTI-ROMANTIC COMEDY IN 3 ACTS by George Bernard Shaw
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"You are a romantic idiot."
Shaw's first commercially-successful play and his funniest work wins the day through low-key satire and "flat-out hilarity." The backdrop (though relatively irrelevant) is the end of the Bulgarian/Hungarian/Austrian/Russian conflict at the end of the 1800s. "A passionate young aristocratic woman, Raina Petkoff--whose ideas of war and heroism have been 'addled' by romantic novels and operas --is engaged to the handsome, strutting, Bulgarian officer Sergius Saranoff ("enter a mustache, followed by a man") who fancies himself something of a Byron, though he is a bit dim in the wartime-strategy department. A practical, down-to-earth Swiss soldier, Captain Bluntschli--fighting for the other side because that's where the work is--scales a drainpipe to escape pursuit and stumbles into Raina's bedroom. "Though she is cooing over her portrait of Sergius, she reluctantly warms to the ragged intruder, whom she deems the 'chocolate cream soldier' for his practice of keeping sweets instead of munitions in his ammo pouch" (on the premise that you're going to be hungry more often than you're going to be shooting). "She and her flustered mother. . . wind up harboring the captain for an hour or two until he can make it to safety."
"When the war’s over, though, Bluntschli boomerangs back" (secret meeting still secret), Sergius prances attendance, and "a love triangle--or quadrangle--ensues, with Raina’s heart split between the two soldiers as her fiance romances the rebellious, coquettish maid Louka."
"Silly, smart, effervescent" (the oldglobe.com)