The Wedding

Directed by Zelijko Djukicthe wedding by brecht

Produced by TUTA Theatre Chicago

At the Chopin Theatre, Chicago

Brecht’s brilliance brought to life

Full title: The Petty Bourgeois Wedding (from the German), Brecht’s early (1919) one-act is bristling with social commentary, absurdity, and exuberance. In this remarkably German play (only the Germans would talk about eggs the way the wedding party does, and only Germans – old Germans – would find death-bed dropsy acceptable dinner conversation), we witness the unraveling of social mores as drink allows the social facades to fade away and people do and say what they truly want and think, until the evening ends in a shambles for the Bride (Jennifer Byers) and Bridegroom (Trey Maclin).

the wedding by brecht

The action takes place in the Bridegroom’s house, which he has furnished with self-made (and poorly glued) furniture. His Mother (Ariel Brenner) is in attendance, as well as the Bride’s Father (Kirk Anderson), and a smattering of other friends and relatives. As the Bridegroom’s Mother serves her courses, from the fish plate to the deserts, conversation is carefully navigated by proposing a toast whenever the Bride’s Father gets to a particularly crude part of one of his stories. Dancing becomes inevitable, as an exit to conversation, and a drunken bacchanal ensues. Everyone ends up dancing with people they rather shouldn’t, and rather more vigorously than is appropriate. By the end of the play, each of the party members has insulted at least one of their companions, some to the extent of physical assault.

the wedding by brecht

The Mother is terrifying: all throughout the play, she sits at a corner table, witnessing everything, not saying a word. When the German national anthem is sung (the part they have since excised), she is the one that lingers on the words after the music abruptly stops. She is far the severest person on stage. In contrast, The Bride’s Father is jovial, always trying to entertain and placate, and constantly reminding the Bridegroom that, should they desire it, his old furniture is theirs – including the bed on which “more than one relative has died,” simultaneously representing its antiquity and family ties, as well as the decadence and decay of the Old Ways.

The original songs, composed by Jesse Terrill, are excellent, fitting into the piece as a whole, bringing the absurdity of the play to the fore and enhancing the commentary and characterizations of those who sing them – with a particularly impressive rendition by Andy Hagar, the Bridegroom’s Friend. Another ensemble piece is petrifying, with all the actors in lock step, staring straight forward, playing instruments and singing. When the song is finished, they act as if what has just transpired is completely normal and go about the business of the party; this is just one of the many fine moments orchestrated by director Zelijko Djukic.

The remarkably strong ensemble – and make no mistake, this is the definition of an ensemble piece – is rounded out by the Bride’s Sister (Jaimelyn Gray), the Wife (Jacqueline Stone), Her Husband (Sean Ewert) and the Young Man (Jake Lindquist). No one gives a sour performance, with Jacqueline Stone’s absolutely vicious – in a brilliantly underhanded way – Wife a particular highlight. This is a play that anyone who enjoys theatre, absurdity, or social criticism should attend. And with tickets only $20-$30, that’s a real possibility. I have not laughed so hard – and I mean belly laughed – in a very long time. The Wedding is an excellent example of Brecht’s “epic theatre,” and that is something, if I may be so bold, that all of us could use a bit more of.

Highly recommended

Will Fink

Date Reviewed: February 5, 2011

For full show information, check out The Wedding page at Theatre In Chicago.

At the Chopin Theatre, 1543 West Division Street, Chicago, IL; call 773-278-1500; tickets $20-$30; performances Thursday-Saturday at 7:30, Sunday at 3; running time 70 minutes without intermission; through March 6.

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