Where can you hear new songs by Duncan Sheik (with musical nods to Kurt Weill) and see a play by Bertolt Brecht, which takes the farcical nature of the piece so far that the actors tell us at the very beginning, that we probably won't understand much, and that it is really okay? On 13th Street where A Man's A Man is playing at Classic Stage Company. From the get go, the pressure was off, because with that disclaimer, I discovered the ability to simply go with the flow of the show. After all, Brecht had a reason for writing this piece, and we, it turns out, have a reason to see it.
A Man's A Man features a group of soldiers in British Colonial India in 1925 (or thereabouts, as stated in the Playbill) clearly clueless as they comport themselves as soldiers. Due to a series of odd circumstances, they enlist an innocent dockworker by the name of Galy Gay into Her Majesty's Armed Forces. From a hapless young man, Galy Gay is transformed into a tough and soul-less soldier. And in that transformation, we are reminded about how young soldiers in war must often lose their humanity and disassociate in order to follow orders. I was also reminded about another kind of transformation, which reflects the way corporate America grooms their managers to follow rules and procedures while being devoid of emotion.
You can extrapolate any themes you wish from this play.
There is comedy, silliness, and great performances by the cast who often break the fourth wall, and invite the audience's participation. Brian Kulick ably directs Jason Babinksy (Polly Baker), Steven Skybell (Jesse Mahoney), Andrew Weems (Jeraiah Jip), Martin Moran (Uriah Shelley), Alan K.Washington (numerous roles), Stephen Spinella (Bloody Five), Ching Valdes-Aran ( Mr. Wang), Justin Vivian Bond (Widow Begbick) and Gibson Frazier as Galy Gay. There is really inventive scenic design by Paul Steinberg.
I can't help but feel very partial to Brecht's characters. The conglomeration of personalities he has created seems to put up a mirror to our world, at any time and at any place.
It was a Sunday afternoon when I went to see the show, and the Classic Stage Company's lobby was packed. I so appreciate theater-goers' willingness to see a piece as eclectic, somewhat bizarre and yet strangely moving as this.
A Man's A Man plays through Feb. 16.