Bernard Shaw’s “Saint Joan” Opens to Mixed Reviews

Condola Rashad Stars as 15th Century French Military Figure

saint joanOn April 25, 2018, Saint Joan opened at the Samuel J. Friedman, where it had been running in previews since April 3, 2018.  This production by the Manhattan Theatre Club is directed by Daniel Sullivan, whose many directorial credits on Broadway include The Columnist, Sylvia, The Little Foxes, The Snow Geese, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Country House, Orphans, and John Lithgow: Stories by Heart.  A frequent collaborator of the Manhattan Theatre Club, Sullivan now directs his talents towards this play by Bernard Shaw, also known as George Bernard Shaw, whose many other writing credits include Pygmalion (which My Fair Lady is based on), Man and Superman, Heartbreak House, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Major Barbara, Getting Married, Candida, The Devil’s Disciple, Arms and the Man, You Can Never Tell, and Caesar and Cleopatra.  Over the course of history, Saint Joan has been mounted on Broadway a total of 9 times.  The frequency with which it is revived is attributable to the fact that it is an excellent vehicle for a powerful actress.  In this production, that role is assumed by Condola Rashad, whose Broadway credits include the 2011 production of Stick Fly, the 2013 production of The Trip to Bountiful, as Juliet in the 2013 production of Romeo and Juliet, and the 2017 production of A Doll’s House, Part 2.

A Mixed Response, with Both Positive and Negative Reviewssaint joan

Upon reviewing the show for The New York Times, Jesse Green remarked that Condola Rashad “brings her usual intelligence and unfussy theatricality” to her interpretation of Joan, but that the “blank quality in Ms. Rashad’s Joan leaches the play of drama,” and that in fact the characters “all seem strangely conflict-averse.”  The result, he concludes, is that Joan comes off as “modest,” which is one thing she has never been accused of being.  Frank Rizzo from Variety, on the other hand, was a much bigger fan of the show, calling the production “a smart, stylish and engaging Broadway revival,” and that “Condola Rashad steps into the starring role in a blaze of glory and claims it as her own.”  However, Frank Scheck from the Hollywood Reporter despised the play, saying, “Even when done well, Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan is a slog.”  But then, he goes on to say, “And since Manhattan Theatre Club’s Broadway revival of the 1923 play isn’t done very well, it’s even more of a slog than usual.”  While he admits that Rashad is a “talented actress,” he also believes that she “fails to galvanize the lengthy proceedings” in the play.  Leah Greenblatt from Entertainment Weekly was more on the fence, calling Rashad’s performance “girlish” and the revival “glossy,” but then says that in the second act, “Rashad’s girlishness begins to grow into the holy passion and fervor audiences expect from her.”  Roma Torre from NY1 was also mixed in her response, saying that, on the surface, the revival is timely, but that “the production falls a bit short.”

Mediocre Box Office to Boot

Not only were the reviews less than surely hoped for by the producers of this revival, this box office is also floundering.  In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending April 22, 2018, Saint Joan brought in a weekly gross of $219,105, which represents 32.55% of its gross potential.  Over the course of the three weeks of performances reported thus far, the average percentage reached of gross potential has been 32.51%.  Meanwhile, the audience capacity on average throughout the run thus far has been 84.43%.  With a top ticke price of $199.00, the average paid admission across these three weeks has been $50.39.  With these mixed reviews, it is not particularly promising that this revival of Saint Joan will go down in history as a success.

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Carly graduated University Of Toronto, Theatre and Performance program. She has written for various publications including art-speaks, Pembroke Daily Observer, Toronto Star - Performing Arts Section, The Canadian Post and more recently the Village Voice and the New York Daily News. As a member of the Barrow Group, an award-winning Off-Broadway theatre company and performing arts school, her specialties include performance stage production and talent casting.
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