For a lucid analysis of the malfunctioning global financial markets, one could do worse than Bertolt Brecht. And its hard to imagine doing Brecht any better than director Michael Rothhaar in this electrifying staging of the Marxist maestros classic, anti-morality play, St. Joan of the Slaughterhouses. Set in the Chicago meatpacking markets of the 1930s (wittily caricatured in Danielle Ozymandias costumes), the story cleverly inverts the Jeanne dArc legend in the character of Joan Dark (a dynamic Dalia Vosylius), an antipoverty crusader whose Warriors of God mission caters to packers left destitute by slaughterhouse closings. Joans efforts to get the men back to work lead her to financier Pierpont Mauler (the fine Andrew Parks), unaware that it is his stock manipulations that are responsible for the closings and that Mauler is cynically using Joans appeals to further his scheme. When she subsequently refuses a Mauler bribe for the financially strapped mission, she is cast into the street, where she belatedly realizes the pointlessness of good intentions without collective action. Powered by Peter Mellencamps vivid, new translation and an unerring ensemble (including standouts Robin Becker, Ed Levey, Tony Pasqualini and Daniel Riordan), Rothhaars production is a perfectly pitched tribute to the principles of epic theater. (Its also a showcase for the multitalented Norman Scott, who lights his own set design and shines as Maulers scurvy hatchet man.) Rothhaar & Co. not only prove that the old, dialectical dogmatist still has teeth but that Brechts bark and his bite are both wickedly entertaining.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: June 19. Continues through Aug. 30, 2009