The play that will be discussed in this critique will be The Caucasian Chalk Circle, written by Bertolt Brecht. I saw the play on September 29th at the Jose Quintero theatre and the production was directed by Justin Lucero. Before taking this theatre class I had never heard of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, so the story and experience of the play were all new to me.
The main theme that I saw in the play is corruption, through the reality of economic and social inequalities. In the play Brecht shows the cruelness of the rich, and how an abundance of wealth leads to moral corruption, while showing the compassion of the poor. These two contrasts highlight each other. For example, the Abashwili’s power and wealth made them oblivious to the struggles of the poor. He shows how poor people are generally good through Grusha saving Michael and raising him as her own. I do agree with Brecht’s portrayal of corruption, because of current events happening in politics now. A lot of politicians are wealthier and have a higher social status than the average person, so I believe that most of them want to provide laws and services that cater to citizens that are more like them. Through doing that they leave the poor and middle class to fend for themselves. The more money and power you have makes it easier to get whatever you want whenever you want. Which also ties into the politics because the rich have more money to donate to the campaigns they agree with or influence the government. That’s why I think people from humble beginnings or just regular middle class aren’t really prone to corruption, because they don’t have as much money as the rich to carelessly throw around.Order now
The main protagonist is Grusha Vashnadze, a lower class servant girl. Her main goal is to keep Michael, whom she saved after he was abandoned after a coup, safe. She sacrifices her own safety and comfort in order for him to survive. She’s a symbol of goodness and righteousness in the play. The main antagonist is Natella Abashwili, a vain and materialistic woman who is the governor’s widow. Natella’s goal is to get her son back from Grusha. Not because she loves him or misses him, but because since Michael is the heir and the estates and finances of the governor are tied to him, so they cannot be accessed without him. Both of their goals make sense given Brecht’s theme of corruption, depicting the rich as bad and the poor as good. Grusha isn’t blood related to Michael, but takes him in as a son and cares for him. Even when she doesn’t have enough money to care for herself. Natella is more concerned about what having Michael as a son can do for her, in this case give her access to more land and money. Grusha wants to keep Michael because she loves him, therefore she doesn’t want him to grow up cruel and vain like his birth mother.
The central conflict is caused by Grusha taking in a abandoned noble child and raising him during a civil war. When the war is over the boy’s birth mother returns and wants to reclaim the boy. This is causes conflict because both women claim to be the boy’s mother. Grusha claims she’s the mother due to the fact that she raised him. Natella claims she’s the mother because she actually gave birth to Michael and the fact that they are blood related.
The set was smokey and filled with rusted and dusty items. The items were also dirty and cluttered around the stage. In doing so that shows the play will take place in a place that’s poor and depicts how the people are struggling to survive. When the rich people came on stage they had loads of trunks with clothes spilling out of them to depict their wealth. The set would change by the actors adding or taking away items. Overall the set of the play helped my understanding. The different sets used did a good job of letting the audience know that the scene had moved on to a new location. Also the items used, although at times unconventional, were easy to figure out. what they were supposed to represent. For example the milk cartons were Michael as a baby and a toddler, or how blue foil was used to represent a river. The only complaint I had was you could see the actors on the sides moving around or changing into their next costumes. To me it was a little distracting, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the play though.
All the parts in the play were double casted, so having the cast were different outfits specific to the character played help a lot. What each character wore showed their economic or social status and their occupation The wealthy characters, such as Natella and the Governor, wore fancy, expensive looking clothes, while the poor, Grusha and the other maids, wore tattered and dirty clothes. Those differences showed that one group, the rich, made more money than the other, the poor. That can be tied in with the play’s theme of corruption. The rich make so much money, but don’t bother to dress their own servants nicely as well. The type of clothes worn also let me know the jobs of some of the characters without it having to be said out loud. For example the two doctors were wearing white lab coats, and Simon was wearing cargos and a beret, so I could infer that he was a soldier. The only confusion was trying to figure out when the story took place. Some characters wore clothes from the past and some wore clothes that were modern, such as some of the guys wearing vans, or a FEMA jacket. The time period wasn’t said, but I assumed that the story didn’t take place now or from the last couple of years. I was thinking somewhere in between the 1700s to the 1800s, so I was a bit confused on that aspect.
The lighting of the play helped show a change over time. When the lights would dim down then reappear again that meant it was moving to a new scene. The spotlight also was used to help direct your focus on important things happening in the play. For example when Natella and Grusha had to pull Michael from the chalk circle, moments before the start of the pulling the lights went dark on everyone, so the spotlight would just focus on Grusha. It emphasized her turmoil of wanting to win the pulling contest to keep Michael as her son, but also at the same time not wanting to do any harm towards him. Overall the lighting helped my understanding of the play.
The score of the play served as transition music or an outlet for emotion. The transition music was calm and similar to elevator music, just something to listen to while it takes you to your new destination. As for emotion many times during the play the characters sang out their feelings or music was used to heighten intensity. For example during the coup the music was loud and brash. The problem with the score was that atimes it would be too loud and I wouldn’t be able to hear what the characters were saying.