Friday again, and time for another Wall Street Journal drama-column teaser. This week I review Jean Cocteau Repertory’s off-Broadway revival of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and a Washington production of Shakespeare’s Othello, both of them enthusiastically:
Lorinda Lisitza, the excellent Pirate Jenny of the Cocteau’s production of “The Threepenny Opera,” is even better this time around as Mother Courage, the brutally cynical camp-follower who means to survive the Thirty Years’ War no matter what it takes, not knowing that she is purchasing her “survival” with pieces of her soul. (It isn’t hard to imagine her sloshing through the waterlogged streets of New Orleans, filling her cart to the brim with looted goods.) Made up to look like the haggard older sister of one of Vermeer’s serious young women, Ms. Lisitza also gets ample opportunity to show off her formidable skills as a cabaret singer, and while Paul Dessau’s settings of Brecht’s lyrics are nondescript, you’d swear they were tuneful when she sings them….
The Shakespeare Theatre Company is currently putting on an “Othello” so fine that I don’t see how it could be bettered, except maybe by bringing it to Broadway, where even more people could see it.
This “Othello” is played as straight as [David] Fuller’s “Mother Courage,” with no overlay of conceptual hoo-hawry to loosen the grip of Shakespeare’s terrible tale of jealousy and envy run amok. Michael Kahn, the company’s artistic director, has put his actors on a dirt-plain set built of unfinished boards, dressed them in period costumes, given them plenty of room to do their stuff and (I suspect) told them not to dawdle….
I also pass on a bit of theatrical news:
William Finn’s “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is having a “parent/teacher night” on Oct. 2 at 7:30. Translation: This performance is for adults only. Jay Reiss plays the vice principal in charge of responding to the question, “Could you use that word in a sentence, please?” Some of the sentences he came up with in rehearsal were, um, child-unfriendly. Mr. Reiss plans to trot them out in public Sunday after next for the first time…
No link, and there’s plenty more where that came from, so buy a copy of today’s Journal, or go here to subscribe to the Online Journal.