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'Arms and the Man' full of colorful characters

by: PHOTO BY TRAVIS NODURFT - Jennifer Whitten, as Raina, and Tommie Olson, as Captain Bluntschli, stir up a little dramatic tension in a scene from CCC's 'Arms and the Man.'Audience members who attend “Arms and the Man,” at Clackamas Community College, will enjoy the “topsy-turvy viewpoints of the characters as well as the way the romance and plot develops throughout,” said James Eikrem, the CCCs theatre program artistic director.

Eikrem, who is the director of the play, was hired last fall to replace David-Smith English, who retired in 2012.

“Arms and the Man” is a comedy by George Bernard Shaw, set in a small town in Bulgaria during four months of 1885-86.

“It concerns the complications that arise when a young woman hides an enemy soldier in her bedchamber after his army is routed by a daring cavalry charge by the Bulgarians. Romantic notions of war and love are skewered, as we meet a cast of characters that include Raina, an idealistic young lady; her domineering mother, Catherine; a saucy maid, Louka; a most unusual mercenary soldier, Captain Bluntschli; a crafty servant, Nicola; a blustery officer, Major Petkoff; and a posturing dandy, Major Sergius Saranoff,” Eikrem said.

He has known and loved the play since college, and noted that Shaw is “considered by many to be the greatest English playwright next to Shakespeare, and his dialogue is laced with wonderful language, captivating characters and thought-provoking dialogue.”

Shaw was the author of over 60 plays, and the only person to receive both the Nobel Prize for Literature and an Academy Award, Eikrem said.

He added, “I thought it would offer a wonderful experience to introduce CCC students to Shaw and this play, and that it would offer a great opportunity for them to handle tricky language and complex ideas, while maintaining a decidedly comic tone.”

‘Visual treat’

Audience members will also find the sets, costumes and lights “a real visual treat,” Eikrem said.

“Although it isn’t always laugh-out-loud funny, it is consistently amusing. Rather than farce, I would consider it more as a high comedy of manners,” he added.

He takes delight in watching his students perform, he said, and noted that two scenes from “Arms and the Man” really grab him.

One is near the opening of the play, when the enemy soldier, Captain Bluntschli, climbs through the window of the young lady Raina’s bedchamber.

“It is full of dramatic tension and atmosphere that is beautifully captured by our wonderful scenic and lighting designer, Chris Whitten, our enormously creative costumer designer, Alva Bradford, and our talented student actors in the scene,

Jennifer Whitten and Tommie Olson,” Eikrem said.

A second scene that he enjoys is the flirtation between Louka and Sergius in the second act, performed by students Gloria Pidasheff and Reed Morris.

Rex Putnam High graduate

Taking on the position of artistic director is a homecoming of a sort for Eikrem.

He was born in Oregon City and graduated from Rex Putnam High School; he earned his bachelor’s degree in theatre arts and in English from Portland State University.

He then attended the Graduate Acting Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts degree.

For the last 10 years, Eikrem was an assistant professor at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Mich.

He is pleased to be back in Oregon and at CCC, and added, “I would also like to say how much I am enjoying the community and the students.”

Fast Facts

Clackamas Community College’s Theatre Department presents “Arms and the Man,” a comedy by George Bernard Shaw, directed by James Eikrem.

Shows are March 7, 8, 9 and 10, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., with the Sunday matinee at 2:30 p.m. in the Osterman Theatre. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for youth and $8 for seniors. For ticket information and reservations, visit TheatreCCC.org or call 503-594-3153.

Christopher Taylor, the arts and cultural editor of The Clackamas Print, the student newspaper at CCC, contributed to this story.



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