Monday, March 30, 2015


                    PHOTO BY CAROL ROSEGG

When the peasants revolt, the rulers often lose their heads.  In the fictional land of Grusinia, the Governor Abashvili (Max Gordon Moore) and his wife Natella (Brenda Meaney) are swept up in the revolution and in the ensuing fire and confusion their infant Michael is abandoned and lost to them.  Thanks to the quick thinking and compassion of a palace kitchen maid Grusha (Shaunette Renee Wilson) who values life, rather than Natella who puts her wardrobe above her son's well being, Michael is rescued and is taken on a journey of danger and risk.

Bertolt Brecht has penned this epic folk tale and courtesy of the Yale Repertory Theatre, you can be swept away in its all encompassing drama, in "The Caucasian Chalk Circle," until Saturday, April 11 at the University Theatre, 222 York Street, New Haven.

The political regime in Grusinia is being toppled and the Governor loses everything, up to and including his head.   With appreciation to the ever present and singing narrator/storyteller Azdak (Steven Skybell), we are privy to all the action, the disputes, the adventures, the conflicts, the battle of good versus evil and the struggle for justice.  This parable is long in the telling, but filled with amazing scenic designs and unique special effects, courtesy of Chika Shimizu, that make the odyssey more enjoyable, like melting icicles and a perilous trek across a foot bridge.

One moment Grusha is being wooed by the friendly soldier Simon (Jonathan Majors) and the next she is putting her own life at risk as she flees with the infant Michael in tow, trying to find a safe place for them to hide.  The blood thirsty Ironshirt soldiers are in swift pursuit.  All the turmoil has been set in motion by the Fat Prince, the Governor's brother, (Jesse J. Perez) who causes the coup.

After Grusha protects her "little burden," engaging in actions to unselfishly shield him, like marrying a man Yussep (Aubre Merrylees) on his death bed to give the baby a legitimate name, she finds herself in a court of law. Natella has returned to claim her son and the vast estates that are now his.  A large chalk circle is drawn to establish his true parentage and a crafty judge has the powers to sway the court's verdict.

Liz Diamond directs this well crafted tale with hints of humor sprinkled through the life threatening action, with original music by David Lang, musical direction by Daniel Schlosberg, in this work translated by James and Tania Stern and W. H. Auden.

For tickets ($20-99), call the Yale /Repertory Theatre at 203-432-1234 or online at  Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and occasional Wednesdays at 2 p.m.

Come witness the drama of young Michael (Kourtney Savage and Fred Thornley IV) being placed in the center of the chalk circle in a true King Solomon moment in time.

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