Cherry Jones is the good salvation army major who must fight against her heritage as the daughter of a joyfully wicked (and maddeningly articulate) Victorian industrialist in the new Roundabout Theatre Company revival of George Bernard Shaw’s classic Major Barbara. The play, directed by Daniel Sullivan (Jones' pilot in 2000's A Moon for the Misbegotten), began previews at the American Airlines Theatre on June 15 and opened July 12. The show was scheduled to play through Sept. 2 but then extended to Sept. 9 and then again to date Sept. 16.
In an unfortunate irony, the show, about the daughter of an amoral munitions factory owner who glibly justifies manufacturing tools of mass murder, played its final week under the shadow of the Sept. 11 terrorist catastrophe in New York City (performances Sept. 11-12 were cancelled). (The Roundabout reacted to the World Trade Center bombing by indefinitely postponing another show, a revival of Stephen Sondheim's sardonic Assassins.)
In Major Barbara, actress Jones plays opposite English actor David Warner, as evil-but entertaining Andrew Undershaft. The cast also includes Dana Ivey (The Death of Papa at CT's Hartford Stage), Zak Orth (Misalliance) and Denis O'Hare (Cabaret).
This is not Jones' first stab at the role. She told Time Out New York that she played the part in 1990 at Boston's A.R.T. Her other recent roles include Pride's Crossing (Lincoln Center Theater), The Night of the Iguana (Roundabout) and Tongue of a Bird (Public Theater).
Designers for the show include John Lee Beatty (set), Jane Greenwood (costumes), Brian MacDevitt (lighting). Daniel Sullivan has done very well the past two season directing new works by contemporary authors, such as Proof, Ten Unknowns, Spinning Into Butter and Dinner With Friends. He won a 2001 Tony Award for Proof, which is still running on Broadway. This is his first stab at a classic since Moon.
Major Barbara tells of the daughter of a rich munitions factory owner who spurns her father's amoral business to work for the Salvation Army. Dad proves to her and her fiancé, however, that providing basic necessities and a certain level of comfort wins a lot more souls than purity of heart. Other Shaw works include Pygmalion, Man and Superman, Arms and the Man and Heartbreak House.
For tickets and information on Major Barbara at the American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St., call (212) 719-1300.