Off-Broadway's Classic Stage Company presents a new production of Bertolt Brecht's "A Man's A Man" featuring new songs by the Tony winning composer of "Spring Awakening." NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
The title's not familiar and I bet few in the audience know this work at all but even with original music by contemporary composer Duncan Sheik, it should be pretty clear early on who wrote it. "A Man's a Man" has all the trappings of a Brecht play, the distancing effects, the socially conscious themes and the off the wall antics. And while it doesn't measure up to Brecht's classic Three Penny Opera, there's still much to recommend.
It's set in 1925 India which Brecht describes as "Rudyard Kipling-like". British colonial soldiers are stationed there ruminating about their manhood. Amid their bluster, they encounter a meek dock worker on an errand from his wife to buy a fish for dinner. Of course Brecht upends the soldiers' crude notions. And by play's end, they all learn some harsh lessons on what it really means to be a man.
It's all stylized of course and farcical. And it might be hard to follow. But Brian Kulick's inventive production featuring dozens of barrels is quite amusing for the most part. And Duncan Sheik's musical contributions are big assets.
The all-male cast is uniformly first rate. Stephen Spinella as brutal commander Bloody Five and performance artist Justin Vivian Bond playing Widow Begbick are especially winning.
As with all Brecht plays, they're to be enjoyed on many levels. On the surface "A Man's a Man" is quite humorous but there's great wisdom to be found as well; and it can only be fully appreciated if you let it get under your skin.