Shaw vs. Chesterton: The Debate at Provision Theater Company | Theater review
Provision artistic director Timothy Gregory lightly dramatizes real-life arguments between literary heavyweights.
Video clips of historic debates ranging from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008 to Nixon and JFK in 1960 precede this dramatized argument between friends George Bernard Shaw (Larry McCauley) and G.K. Chesterton (Brad Armacost). Timothy Gregory’s new play emphasizes the importance of intellectual dialogue for social and political growth, noting that most of what Shaw and Chesterton are deliberating is still being discussed today. Based on real debates between the two men, Shaw vs. Chesterton: The Debate is very informative but less than riveting; it’s essentially well-acted adult edutainment.
Two old white guys talking about economics and religion may sound like a recipe for boredom. Yet Armacost and McCauley are charismatic performers who present information with humor and clarity. Gregory’s staging wisely encourages audience participation, and the actors’ interactions with patrons keep the production moving. That momentum is furthered by bits of physical comedy in the midst of the ideological discourse, as when Shaw, in a fit of passion, steals the gavel from moderator Belloc (a delightfully anxious Michael Downey).
By keeping the two men’s friendship central, Gregory prevents his script from getting too heady. There’s a sense of familiarity between the actors, the ease with which they argue suggesting this is just the most recent in a long tradition of such exchanges.