Monday, July 30, 2018

Brecht on Brecht

It comes as no surprise that Bertolt Brecht's most incisive and cynical writings are painfully timely, right here, right now. The PTP/NYC production of Brecht on Brecht knows this fact and utilizes it, as adding Mexicans and Muslims to a piece about Jews, emphasizing the frightening parallels between now and Germany in the 1930s.

Photo: Stan Barouh

It did come as a surprise, to me at least, that director Jim Petosa chose to present this piece as Story-Theatre-Meets-Godspell, with red noses, zooming shopping carts, and other cheerful accouterments. Much of this direction worked in its own way, but it didn't quite fit with the stories being told.

Another problem with this production is that some of the performers just aren't up to the high-level singing and acting required to do Brecht's more difficult pieces. It also doesn't help that the show ends with an extended monologue ("The Jewish Wife") followed by an extended song ("Surabaya Johnny"). It reminded me of when you've been driving for hours at 70 mph and have to slow down to 40, and how you feel as though you're frozen in place.

And yet there is much here that is worthwhile. First of all, of course, there is Brecht. His writing is razor-sharp, insightful, and full of the sort of rue that is painfully easy for the audience to share. And the cast does acquit itself well on many pieces, particularly the spoken ones. And did I mention it's Brecht?

Wendy Caster
(2nd row, press ticket)
Show-Score Score: 70

Cast: Harrison Bryan, Christine Hamel, Carla Martinez, Jake Murphy, Miguel Castillo, Olivia Christie, Sebastian LaPointe and Ashley Michelle. Production team: Ronnie Romano (Music Director and Pianist), Hallie Zieselman (Set Design), Joe Cabrera (Lighting Design), Annie Ulrich (Costume Design) and Alex Williamson (Production Stage Manager).

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