Stage Raw: Pigs' Life (St. Joan of the Slaughterhouses)
Photo by Vitor Martins
For a lucid analysis of the malfunctioning global financial markets, one could do worse than Bertolt Brecht. And it's hard to imagine doing Brecht any better than director Michael Rothhaar in this electrifying staging of the Marxist maestro's 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 d'Arc legend in the character of Joan Dark (a dynamic Dalia Vosylius), an anti-poverty crusader whose "Warriors of God" mission caters to packers left destitute by slaughterhouse closings. Joan's efforts to get the men back to work lead her to the 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 her appeals to further his scheme. When Joan 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 Mellencamp's vivid, new translation and an unerring ensemble (including standouts Robin Becker, Ed Levey, Tony Pasqualini and Daniel Riordan), Rothhaar's production is a perfectly pitched tribute to the principles of epic theater. (It's also a showcase for the multi-talented Norman Scott, who lights his own set design and shines as Mauler's scurvy hatchet man.) Rothhaar & co. not only prove that the old, dialectical dogmatist still has teeth, but that Brecht's bark and his bite are both wickedly entertaining. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 9, (No perfs July 3-4.). (310) 822-8392.
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