Let's Talk Off Broadway

Yvonne Korshak reviews Off-Broadway, Broadway, Film and Art

Tag: Brian Kulick

Review | A Man’s A Man by Bertolt Brecht | Translated by Gerhard Nellhaus | Original Music by Duncan Sheik | Directed by Brian Kulick | Classic Stage Company

… Brecht no way…

This early play of Brecht, set in British Colonial India, takes up the story of a pleasant minded civilian, an Irishman named Galy Gay, who — on his way to buy fish for himself and his wife — is waylaid by three soldiers whose fourth companion has disappeared and is, by force and brain washing (though that term came in later), turned into a enthused soldier, defined here as a killing machine. 

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Review | Galileo by Bertolt Brecht | Translated by Charles Laughton | Directed by Brian Kulick | Choreographed by Tony Speciale | With F. Murray Abraham, Robert Dorfman and Amanda Quaid | Classic Stage Company

The conflict in Galileo is iconic:  freedom of ideas vs. censorship.  Brecht peppers his play and his character of Galileo (1564-1642 ) with some Marxist views which are anachronistic but the play triggers thought and thrills one at the power of human intellect.

Everybody’s having a good time looking through the telescope Galileo has recently perfected, and figuring out its benefits and fiscal profits.  Galileo, short of money, wouldn’t mind reaping some profit, too, but fundamentally he’s peering into his telescope in his quest for truth, recording his observations, and thinking about them.  His observations and calculations reveal to him that the earth rotates around the sun, not the other way around.

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Review | Double Falsehood by William Shakespeare* and John Fletcher* | Adapted by Lewis Theobald | Directed by Brian Kulick | Classic Stage Company

A rumored connection to Shakespeare’s the thing here — not the play.

Is Double Falsehood  based on a play Shakespeare wrote* in collaboration with John Fletcher,* that has come down to us through an 18th-century adaptation by Lewis Theobald?  Classic Stage would like us to entertain that possibility.  It’s worthy to examine Shakespearean controversies but — theater is theater and this is not a good play.  And there’s nothing of Shakespeare to experience in it.

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Review | Jacques and His Master by Milan Kundera | Adapted from Diderot | Dramatic Reading, Directed by Brian Kulick | Classic Stage Company

… 18th-Century Post-Modern …

What a play!  And what a marvelous way to get to know it!

Monday, September 27, Classic Stage presented a reading of Jacques and His Master, written by novelist Kundera as an adaptation of Denis Diderot’s 18th-century novel.  Read by a cast that completely fulfilled the play, headed by two wonderful actors, Dan Oreskes as Jacques and F. Murray Abraham as Jacques’ Master, it was as vivid as any totally dramatized production — like radio drama, one sees it all!

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Review | The Forest by Alexander Ostrovsky | Adapted by Kathleen Tolan | Starring John Douglas Thompson and Diane Wiest | Directed by Brian Kulick | Classic Stage

… realm of the free spirit …

Alexander Ostrovsky was one of the most popular and prolific Russian playwrights of the 19th Century.  The Forest, written in 1870, nine years after the emancipation of the serfs, reflects shifting relationships between the classes:  Raisa, an elderly, wealthy landowner, is selling off her forested estate bit by bit to Ivan, once a peasant and now a wealthy wood merchant.

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Review | The Age of Iron from William Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida and Thomas Heywood’s Iron Age | Adapted and Directed by Brian Kulick | Classic Stage Company

(Also pertinent … Cry, Trojans (Shakespeare’s Troilus & Cressida), by The Wooster Group)

Just about the entire legend of the Trojan War is told — or at least “covered” — in The Age of Iron, from Paris’ abduction of Helen to the sack of Troy by the Greeks using their ruse of the “Trojan Horse,” all the way to the suicide of Ajax.  Brian Kulick achieved this mainly by appending to Shakespeare’s play, which is focused on a short period toward the end of the war, the “beginning” and the “end” from another Elizabethan play, Heywood’s Iron Age.   The Age of Iron is beautifully produced and you both hear the poetry of Shakespeare’s language and understand every word.

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Review | An Oresteia, plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides translated by Anne Carson | Classic Stage Company

  … cycles of vengeance …

“Oresteia” refers to Aeschylus’ trilogy about the chain of vengeance murders in the House of Atreus — House as in “noble family who live in the palace”.  Classic Stage begins their Oresteia with Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, moving to Sophocles’ Elektra for part two, and Euripides’ Orestes for part three.  How often does one have the chance to see together three great Greek tragedies fully produced!  This is an ambitious project, and worthwhile for bringing these exciting and profound works to new audiences.  This production has excellent qualities, including Anne Carson’s naturalistic but intense translations and some peaks of acting, though some aspects are less satisfying.

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Review | Brecht’s Life of Galileo | Translated by Charles Laughton | Fourth in the Classic Stage series of Brecht dramatic readings

See the previous post in this series, The Good Person of Sezuan, by Bertolt BrechtDefending Truth

The life and science of Galileo are so inherently dramatic that, I think, they led Brecht somewhat astray as a dramatist–he thought a total play wasn't needed.  Wasn't all the drama a playwright could want already there in the searing conflict between Galileo's heliocentrism and the Church's no-holds-barred defense of its geocentric doctrine?  What confrontation could be more elemental than that between Science and Dogma–Galileo vs the Inquisition–with its notorious outcome in which Galileo is forced to recant publicly the truths of sciences?  Brecht is a playwright of ideas but in his best plays he includes other paraphernalia of great theater:  living characters engaged in meaningful conflicts with high stakes (at least to them).  In The Life of Galileo, translated by Charles Laughton, the conflict could not be more significant–truth itself is at stake.  Yet characters live mainly as mouthpieces of ideas.

Maybe, also, that's why the play is jam packed with marvelous lines and memorable aphorisms:  "Truth is the daughter of time, not the author."  "I have no patience with a man who doesn't use his brains to fill his belly."  They help keep us going–luckily!

Because in working out the implications of Galileo's recantation, Brecht's ingenious humanism comes into play, raising the importance of this flawed drama.  True, the recantation of the famous scientist is taken throughout Europe as a set-back for science.  But bear in mind, as Brecht make sure we do, that Galileo was shown the very instruments of torture in a purposeful, programmed climax to his interrogation by the Inquisition.  Hence Brecht's implicit challenges in this play:  Why would you expect Galileo to act otherwiseWhy do you rely on heroes?  and the essential Brecht:  Rely on yourselves.  For this playwright, Galileo is not a failed hero:  he is a man with extraordinary brains and insight who is quite normally human in his fear of pain and love of pleasure.  "Unhappy is the land that has no hero," a disillusioned assistant moans, visiting Galileo during his life-time sentence of house arrest.  "Unhappy is the land that needs a hero," is Galileo's fast retort.

Brian Kulick, Artistic Director of Classic Stage who directed the reading of The Life of Galileo  for the First Look series, treated us to the two extant endings of the play:  one hopeless, one hopeful.  Immediate:  while I was still in the theater, winding down from the reading, I took the hopeless ending to be the "true" one, but in thinking about all I have learned from these readings of four Brecht plays, in reflecting on Brecht's humanism, and on Classic Stage's genereosity and high achievement,  I'm leaning toward "hopeful."

Nearby restaurant favorite — Cafe Deville, 103 3rd Avenue

Next Week:  The Oedipus Cycle at Pearl Theatre

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