Painfully Funny Playwrights: Luck of the Irish and The Good Person of Szechuan

Kirsten Greenidge matches Brecht for bitter laughs

Love louses things up. When Shen Tei gets pregnant, by a man who treats her no better than anyone else has, the action's eerie fusion of Camille and Charley's Aunt becomes unsustainable. She disappears; Shui Ta's arrested on suspicion of murder. He reveals his secret identity to the gods, who offer no solution to Shen Tei's dilemma. As they leave, singing her praises, she shouts, "Help me!"

Brecht employed, and expected his executants to employ, a great deal of highly skilled, carefully calibrated artistry. But he never disdained the crude: For him, cutting through the pretenses of socially acceptable b.s. was always more important than refinement of detail. Lear deBessonet, directing the Foundry Theater's production, captures the Brechtian spirit the only way Americans seem comfortable with it, by using a brash, trash-based, open-form aesthetic. Though it plays hell with Brechtian poetic nuance and specificity, it communicates his substance in raw, joyous clumps. Most of all, Brecht believed theater should be fun, and this Good Person is.

Blake and Harts: Whose house is this, anyway?
Erin Baiano
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Luck of the Irish
By Kirsten Greenidge
Claire Tow Theater
Lincoln Center[Telecharge],

The Good Person of Szechuan
By Bertolt Brecht, translated by John Willett
Ellen Stewart Theater
66 East 4th Street

Obviously male, his shaven head gleaming, Mac doesn't even try for a physical impersonation of Shen Tei. Yet he conveys her feelings, in the tenderer passages, with genuinely moving delicacy, fittingly balanced by his curt, mustachioed Shui Ta. While much of the cast can't match his resourcefulness, the three gods (Vinie Burrows, Annie Golden, and Mia Katigbak) make a stylishly varied trio. And Lisa Kron, as a shrewishly nattering landlady and the self-aggrandizing mother of Shen Tei's lover, delivers two gemlike caricatures that can stand with the best Brechtian performances in any context.

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