Spotlight: Propaganda for the Converted
"You'll have to decide if you want to be amused," a character in this Nimbus show tells the audience at one point. Uh, well, sure, if it's all right with you. This ambitious and demanding original work by playwright David Brent Spolum fuses parts of Brecht's The Measures Taken with T. S. Eliot's The Roc: A Pageant Play. It seems an ill-advised pairing on the surface, but pretty soon it is evident that each of the works was a sermon of sorts, Brecht's extolling communism and Eliot's promoting God. The works collide on a simple stage with a nine-person chorus that holds on for dear life amid an alarming torrent of verbiage, poetry, and the cosmic pairing of revolution and resurrection. Kari Hammer is a standout as the Young Comrade, the fresh face of the party whose ascent, descent, and subsequent arising are credibly mapped out in both the political and religious spheres (one has to tilt one's head a bit, and squint, but it's there). Robert Larsen adds an acerbic twist as the Dramaturg, who interrupts the proceedings, berates the cast, and hectors the audience on things metaphysical. It's a terrific performance, even if, after a big helping of Brecht, he earns some unintentional titters for suggesting the audience is "dozing in [their] seats." Hammer and Larsen negotiate a twisted seduction scene that warps the narrative, eliciting some sympathy when the players finally rise up and knock off the irascible old asshole. Director Josh Cragun has a difficult job trying to hold all this together, and his cast at times noticeably struggles. Both Brecht and Eliot tended to do things in a big way, which might justify the show's two-and-a-half-hour running time, but it's by no means an easy work to get through. I ultimately found it pleasing to let down my guard and allow the two writers' texts to smash against each other, and this is certainly a pleasure more of the head than of the heart. Not a good date show, then, unless your honeybunch is writing a doctoral dissertation on the hidden congruities and metaphysical commonalities between Marxism and theology. If so, then you're set.
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