By Holli Harms
George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan is as much a comedy as it is an account of one of the most interesting humans in history, a young woman who in the time of the middle ages convinces the Dauphin as well as important military leaders of France, to follow her words and her actions.
She says she has contact with God. She says that angels come to her and she says that she does not want to be thought of as a woman but as a soldier. She cuts her hair, dresses like a man of the military, and leads France to victory over England. Illiterate but intelligent, a military strategist who will eventually be canonized by the very church that burned her as a witch. She is remarkable. And so is Shaw’s play. Shaw’s men of riches and royalty, the Lords, the Dukes, and the Dauphin especially, are imbeciles floundering in their birth roles of power. The men of the military and the clergy, all who had to work to get where they are, are passionate, intellectual individuals.
We start with the fact that hens are not laying eggs in the village of the French noble, Robert de Baudricourt (George Eve) and then Joan (Billie Anderson) arrives and asks de Baudricourt to help her contact the Dauphin (Evan Olson) whom she will convince that she, Joan, should lead the French troops to Orleans to overtake the English. Robert de Baudricourt is convinced and soon the hens are laying eggs. Miracles side by side with military successes help lift Joan to the role of one who is invincible.
In the end, Joan is politicized by both the government and the church. She is dangerous to both because she sees herself above both. She answers only to God, not to men, and that is her undoing. Her own countrymen will be her executioners.
Playing down at the Castle Clinton in Manhattan’s Battery Park, this is a production of uneven but heartfelt performances. Everyone working to present this most wonderful of Shaw’s works. And it is Shaw’s words that never falter. They, the story, are worth the trip to one of the loveliest spots in Manhattan. You watch under the stars with the sounds of birds and helicopters and the occasional ferry all becoming part of the experience.
I left wanting to know more about Joan. To try and understand how this young woman in a time when women were most definitely second-class citizens was able to become such an important leader. Leading battles and winning them. Billie Anderson’s Joan is pious and unyielding. She quietly works the room and the men in it. It is an interesting choice for the character. Every step every movement is measured.
Shakespeare Downtown brings you one of Shaw’s greatest plays under the stars in one of the greatest cities surrounded by trees and skyscrapers.
A full evening.
Shakespeare Downtown free Open-Air Classical Summer Theatre Downtown at The Battery’s Historic Castle Clinton presents Shaw’s Saint Joan, June 16-26, 2022
The cast includes: Billie Andersson* (Joan), Craig Braun* (The Inquisitor), Mauricio Bustamante* (Bishop of Beauvais), Davide di Cagno-Hagen (Steward/D’Estivet), Rickard Claeson (Richard de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick), George Eve (Robert de Baudricourt), Monte Greene (various page’s), Charlie Howard (Bastard of Orleans), Malcolm Jackson (Bertrand de Poulengy), Mamadou Jalloh (Captain La Hire/Executioner), Ana Carolina Lima and Ruby Ashbourne Serkis (Duchesse de la Trémouille), Anton Obeid* (The Archbishop), Evan Olson (the Dauphin), Gregor Roach (Chaplain de Stogumber), Luciano Russo (Brother Martin Ladvenu), Marco Villard (Gilles de Rais/De Courcelles), Jacob Voigt* (La Trémouille, Constable of France).
Creative Team: Saint Joan, Written by George Bernard Shaw, Directed by Geoffrey Horne, Set and Costume Design: Amy Goossens,
Lighting Design: G. Scott Designs, Inc., Sound Design: Carlos Ponce
Production Stage Manager: Chantal Van Zyl
Thursday, June 16 to Sunday June 26th
6:30 p.m. Friday, June 17
6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 18
6:30 p.m. Sunday, June 19
6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 23
6:30 p.m. Friday, June 24
6:30 p.m. Saturday, June 25
6:30 p.m. Sunday, June 26
WHERE: Castle Clinton National Monument, The Battery (Battery Park) NY, NY 10004
DIRECTIONS: 1 to South Ferry, N to White Hall, or 4/5 to Bowling Green.
TICKETS: Free tickets are available on the day of the performance at Castle Clinton beginning at 5:45 p.m. First come, first served.
MORE INFO: www.shakespearedowntown.org
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association / AEA approved showcase
Outdoor seating masks are not required. Restrooms are located in the same space.
Running time: 120 minutes no intermission