Man and Superman is a four-act drama, written by George Bernard Shaw in 1903. The series was written in response to calls for Shaw to write a play based on the Don Juan theme. Man and Superman opened at The Royal Court Theatre in London on 23 May 1905, but with the omission of the 3rd Act. A part of the act, Don Juan in Hell (Act 3, Scene 2), was performed when the drama was staged on 4 June 1907 at the Royal Court. The play was not performed in its entirety until 1915, when the Travelling Repertory Company played it at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh.
The long third act of the play is often cut. Don Juan in Hell consists of a philosophical debate between Don Juan (played by the same actor who plays Jack Tanner), and the Devil, with Doña Ana (Ann) and the Statue of Don Gonzalo, Ana's father (Roebuck Ramsden, an aged acquaintance of Tanner's and Ann's Guardian) looking on. This third act is often performed separately as a play in its own right, most famously during the 1950s in a concert version, featuring Charles Boyer as Don Juan, Charles Laughton as the Devil, Cedric Hardwicke as the Commander and Agnes Moorehead as Doña Ana. This version was also released as a spoken word album on LP, but is yet to appear on CD. However, the complete performance recording is now available at various sites on the internet. In 1974–75 Kurt Kasznar, Myrna Loy, Edward Mulhare and Ricardo Montalban toured nationwide in John Houseman's reprise of the production, playing 158 cities in six months.
Although Man and Superman can be performed as a light comedy of manners, Shaw intended the drama to be something much deeper, as suggested by the title. This title comes from Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical ideas about the "Übermensch" ("Superman"). The plot centres on John Tanner, author of "The Revolutionist's Handbook and Pocket Companion", which is published with the play as a 58-page appendix. Tanner is a confirmed bachelor despite the pursuits of Ann Whitefield and her persistent efforts to entice him to marry her. Ann is referred to as "the Life Force" and represents Shaw's view that in every culture, it is the women who force the men to marry them rather than the men who take the initiative.
In 1982, the play was filmed with Peter O'Toole in the starring role.
- ^ Loy, Myrna, and James Kotsilibas-Davis, Being and Becoming. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987; ISBN 0-394-55593-7 pp. 339–340
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