By Ashley Ramsey
UVU’s latest production, The Caucasian Chalk Circle is a brave and innovative production. One of L. Bertolt Brecht’s most famous plays, it is a retelling of a Chinese play called The Circle of Chalk, but is also very similar to the story of King Solomon found in the Bible. The play follows the story of young kitchen maid named Grusha (Devin Neff) who when her hometown erupts into war is faced with the decision of fleeing with the young baby prince, Michael, who has been left behind by his mother, or leaving the child behind to the soldiers who seek to take his life. She has recently been engaged to a young solider, Simon (Brian Kocherhans) who has now left with the armies to fight in battle. We watch as Grusha and Michael fight to survive while meeting a colorful cast of characters along the way.
Playwright Brecht produced theatre with a concept called “Epic Theatre”. “Theatre consists in this: in making live representations of reported or invented happenings between human beings and in doing so with a view to entertainment. The artists’ object is to appear strange and even surprising to the audience. He achieves this by looking strangely and himself and at his work”. Brecht wants you to be aware that you are watching a play. He didn’t want viewers to be swept away in emotions. If you watch from a distance, you can more easily analyze the situation in front of you. It is theatre with a message.
Director Laurie Harrop-Purser does a wonderful job in creating the world in which this production takes place. Purser has used many different tactics to make this show come to life. Music, multi-media, and innovative staging beautifully blend. One of the strongest elements of this show is the ensemble’s performance, which can only come from a strong director at the helm.
Each member of the ensemble in this play takes on at least 3-4 roles. The cast has done an amazing job of building entertaining and engaging characters. Jon Liddiard who plays the role of Azdak, delivers a performance that does not quit from the moment he enters to the curtain call. His energy and commitment to his character is a highlight of the show. Other stand out performances are Devin Neff as Grusha and Maddy Forsythe as Singer/Governor’s wife. Both do a superb job in carrying much of the show. Brian Kocherhans as Simon/Sergeant is perfectly balanced in his delivery of two very different characters.
Costume Designer Natasha Hoffman and scenic designer Jason Sullivan have truly created works of art in their prospective designs. The costumes and set were as much a character as the actors on stage. Their designs are some of the best I have seen in awhile.
Caucasian Chalk Circle is a fantastic theatre-going experience and there are very few that come along like it. Is weird? Yes. Are there moments that will completely pull you out of the show? Yes. Is that what it is designed to do? Absolutely yes. I walked out of the theatre wanting to turn right back around and make the actors do it again for me. The level of commitment and talent that it takes to put on a show of this caliber is high. It may not be your favorite show ever, but it you will not walk out of the theatre the same as you walked in. The cast and crew will ask you to make a choice. It truly is theatre with a message and it is one worth hearing and experiencing.
Caucasian Chalk Circle
The performances will be January 23rd – January 25th, and January 27th – February 1st at 7:30 PM. There will be matinee showings on January 29th and February 1st at 2:00 PM
$8.00 Students, $12.00 Adults
Tickets can be purchased at the UVU Noorda Box Office, or online here: http://goo.gl/FH1yLb