Propaganda focus of ‘Pugilist’

Tricia Friesen

“The Pugilist Specialist” is a comedic, political and intellectually challenging play by Adriano Shaplin. It’s put on by the Washburn University theatre department in the Andrew J. & Georgia Neese Gray Theatre in the Garvey Fine Arts Center.

The play takes place in December 2002, and is about an undercover operation that involves three marine lieutenants, Lt. Stein, Lt. Freud, and Lt. Studdard and their fearless, incompetent leader Colonel Johns. The operation is to assassinate “Big Stash,” otherwise known as the “bearded lady.”

Penny Weiner, director of Pugilist Specialist, notes in the program, a pugilist is “a boxer; one who fights with his fists.” I found the title fit well with many aspects of the play. Although there was no physical fighting in the play, it included several intellectual and political debates between the lieutenants and the colonel which at times seemed like intense, knockout fights at times. The issues covered were propaganda, power, sexism, feminism, freedom, oppression and the moral codes of marines.

“Because it is a political medium and a political play, I’m certain everyone in this room, breathing this air, will discover yet another angle of entry into this theoretical story of a mission gone awry,” said Weiner in the Director’s notes.

I found the play to be very humorous and interesting. There were some unexpected turning points in the play which held me in suspense, especially the ending that took me by surprise. The actors in the play were great and played their parts well. My favorite character was Lt. Freud with his dirty, off-the-wall humor that kept the audience reeling in their chairs. He held the audience’s attention with his witty humor and “macho-man” personality throughout the play.

“The Pugilist Specialist” will be playing again at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 10, and 2 p.m., Sunday, March 11. Washburn students, faculty and staff get in free with their Washburn University I.D.