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Well-intended—and tightly built—comedy was one arrow in George Bernard Shaw’s quiver: Even his lightest trifles tended to have pointed political barbs, and woe unto the politician or moralist who found himself standing target.
In Press Cuttings, one of two one-acts on the bill for the Washington Stage Guild’s long-awaited return to the local thinking-theater scene, it’s the military and its excesses, with John Lescault’s blustering Gen. Mitchener barking “Shoot them down” every time Alan Wade’s fretful Prime Minister Balsquith observes that this Labor activist or that Suffragette has objected to the current state of affairs. Paired (on a program titled Strange Bedfellows) with the briefer, snappier Augustus Does His Bit—an amusingly tart satire about an overbred, underwhelming bureaucrat (Vincent Clark) who justifies every half-thought-out pronouncement with an admonitory “Think of our gallant soldiers”—Press Cuttings makes for an appealingly edgy bit of political commentary in a town where mindless opposition and reflexive jingoism increasingly passes for reasoned discourse.
Bill Largess directs a cast of WSG veterans—Laura Giannarelli, Helen Hedman, and Lynn Steinmetz round out the forces—in a brisk, broad style that leaves little room for doubt about where Shaw stood on the issues in question. That would be on the dryly amused, thoroughly disenchanted side of the political spectrum, in case you’re wondering—and why not join him there? When politics and politicians behave as ridiculously as they do in Shaw’s world (and occasionally in ours), it’s the only stance that’s likely to leave you in full possession of your sanity.