Bertolt Brecht is known to have said about great art that, “nothing is self-evident. I am made to laugh about those who cry, and cry about those who laugh.” We experience a little bit of both in The Other Theatre’s production of George Tabori’s Brecht on Brecht at the Atwater Village Playhouse, directed by Downey resident Alistair Hunter. The evening was one-of-a-kind, from the text, to the actors, to the space, to the very words and ideas of Brecht– this is a production not to be missed.
The performance was an assemblage of the playwright’s poems, songs, prose, and scenes, put together loosely by Tabori, but arranged specifically for this production by the director. A narrative of Brecht’s life it was not, nor did it follow the fictional lives of any of the poet’s most famous characters–yet at the same time, none of this went unnoticed or unlearned throughout the performance. Without being explicitly taught, an audience member completely unaware of the great Bertolt Brecht could easily leave the theatre with a thorough understanding of Brecht’s most passionate beliefs, and the intentions of his now infamous alienation effect and epic theatre.
The cast of five (Gil Hagen-Hill, Daniel Houston-Davila, BeLinda Howell, Susan Kussman, and Gregg Lawrence) brought much more than just talent to the performance. They brought intelligence, sophistication, and a deep understanding of Brecht’s values and way of thinking that is very rare to find in Los Angeles theatre. The space is small but beautiful, comfortable enough to relax, but intimate enough to feel that the actors are talking right to you (and sometimes they are).
Indeed they are speaking to us, here in Downey, in more ways than one. Aside from being a compelling and moving theatrical experience, Brecht was the champion of the type of people we are here in Downey. Brecht spent his life campaigning for the worth of the common man– the workers, the oppressed, the middle- and lower-class. Downey represents all of this and more. Even the wealthy among us are down-to-earth, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth folks. The people who Brecht desired to inspire and empower were those just like us. His words ring just as true today as they did when they were first penned, and have sustained the power to inspire us all.
Brecht on Brecht is presented by The Other Theatre Company, at the Atwater Playhouse, 3191 Casitas Ave. #100, Los Angeles, CA 90039. FREE parking lot. Runs through Sunday, June 9 on Fri/Sat at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm. Dark on May 12, 24, 25, 26. ADMISSION: $25. Students and seniors, $18. RESERVATIONS: (323) 960-1054. ONLINE TICKETING: www.Plays411.com/brecht