A Man's a Man

In an army brigade, three machine gunners are in immediate need of replacing their fourth, who was recently kidanpped. And so, in Bertolt Brecht’s furious early play, they lure a docile man named Galy Gay (Beth Hogan) with whiskey, cigars and women — and when he dares to refuse to adopt the missing soldier’s name and identity, they give him good reason to relent: by stringing up Galy on nonsensical criminal charges. Meanwhile, opportunistic barkeeper Widow Begbick (Diana Cignoni) — an early vestige of Mother Courage — and her troupe of traveling prostitutes scheme to undermine a despotic Sergeant (Will Kepper) while packing up their saloon to follow the army from India into Tibet. (Brecht has slyly populated his India with pagodas and Chinese hucksters in yellow face). Director Ron Sossi takes an inconsistent approach to Brecht’s stylistics, a flaw most visible in the miscast and misdirected Hogan, who starts off blank and guileless, only to blubber like the heroine of a five-hankie weepie during Galy’s tribunal. (Such aggressive emotional manipulation would have been parodied by Brecht.) Already smaller and more fragile than the rest of the pert and heartless ensemble, Hogan’s stunt casting works best when Galy, now calling himself Jip, ascends to control the destruction of Tibet like a pint-sized General Patton barking out orders. This Brecht piece is given the oversimplified interpretation of exploring how the trauma of war warps soldiers, but with Hogan so clearly at the reins in the battle scenes, what’s indicted here is a callow culture that exploits everyone. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Dec. 21. Call for added perfs; no perf Nov. 27. (310) 477-2055.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Oct. 25. Continues through Dec. 21, 2008

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