Presented by Apollinaire Theatre Company
by Bertolt Brecht
Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques
Review by Craig Idlebrook and Kate Longberg-Lew
(Chelsea) Having grown up Catholic, I can spy a morality play when I see it. We used to do some painfully bad skits in church class on the subject of good and evil…think a “very special” episode of Family Ties, without the acting. It felt good, almost ritualistically cleansing, to present a moral world to an audience.
The Caucasian Chalk Circle, playing bilingually at the picturesque and awesomely post-industrial Chelsea Waterfront, is a morality play with a bunch of academic bells and whistles. Some of those bells and whistles are provided by the author, Bertolt Brecht, who constructed his plays to make sure that audiences always saw the strings; we get to see the changing of costumes and sets so we don’t get too lost in the action. Other bells and whistles are provided by the earnest cast of the Apollinaire Theatre Company, which breaks up the action into three separate venues. But it’s still a morality play of biblical proportions, with the wealthy and the poor duking it out over a child amidst the chaos of war. Fat man through the eye of a needle, anyone?
I can’t say I’m overly fond of this play’s style, a mix of sermon and lecture. Also, it feels as though Apollinaire’s venue changes, which worked so well with the restless domestic action of Chekov’s Uncle Vanya, are perfunctory here. But at least the script and production are successful in committing to creating a distinct world, with unabashedly and purposely over-the-top lines and acting, crisp pacing and a killer steampunk motif.
The real shortcoming of this production may be that I saw it performed in English, rather than in its original German. My guess would be that Apollinaire’s Spanish versions of this play, playing on alternating nights, would work better, as well. Anyone who has studied Latin American literature can tell you that you can get away with so much more academic melodrama in a different language.