Schweyk in the Second World War

 

By Bertolt Brechtbertlt brecht

Directed by Aaron Sawyer

Original music by Nicholas Davio and Mike Evans

Produced by Red Theater

At Stage 773, Chicago

Stylish seldom produced Brecht satirical comedy with music works fine

The new Red Theater,  under artistic director Aaron Sawyer, has mounted a worthy production of Bertolt Brecht’s 1943 Schweyk in the Second World War, searing attack on the foibles of Nazi Germany as seen through the eyes of Schweyk and his Czech friends. This ambitious production has all the main Brechtian elements: biting satire and parody, over-the-top humor, fine ethnic songs, puppets and loads of smart wit for the self-proclaimed half-wit, Schweyk (played with verbal dexterity by Kevin Cox).

schwek in the second world war

Director Aaron Sawyer has a keen understanding of Brecht as evidenced by his talented large ensemble who dedicate themselves to the comic, the poignant, and the musical elements that combined to land the wit and biting satire of Brecht. Written while Brecht was living in Hollywood, CA, Schweyk is his re-thought of Czech novelist Jaroslav Hasek’s novel The Good Soldier Schweik. Brecht placed Schweyk in  German occupied Czechoslovakia in 1943 in order to take shots at the Nazis. Brecht hoped his Schweyk would end up on Broadway as a musical with help from Kurt Weil. But that was not to be.

bertolt brechr

In the Red Theatre’s production, Schweyk in the Second World War still, due to Kevin Cox’s subtle command of the stage, works nicely as a humorous parody of  Nazi rule. The so-called feeble minded Schweyk is the ultimate subtle anti-hero. He constantly outwits the Nazi officials as he schemes to save his fellow Czechs and himself through mind games, verbal manipulation and strong suggestive word games.

With ample folksy songs (by Nicholas Davio and Mike Evans) and cute puppetry,  the unique Epic Theatre style fostered by Brecht, was nicely in evidence in this enchanting production. Kara Davidson , as Mrs. Kopecka, sang wonderfully as she keep the neighborhood tavern going as a place for the local folks to gather. The versatile cast garnered all the rich satire contained as the Nazi’s looked foolish, cruel and out witted by Schweyk and hiss fellow Czechs.

Red Theater’s initial  production was mature, funny and quite respectful to Bertolt Brecht’s comedy. The show is fun and reminiscent of other productions of Brecht’s work such as Mother Courage and her Children. That’s good company. Lovers of Brecht’s work will enjoy this show. I know I did.

Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: October 28, 2012

For more info checkout the Schweyk in the Second World War page at theatreinchicago.com

At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, IL, www.redTheater.org, call 773-327-5252, tickets $28, Mondays at 7 pm, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through November11, 2012