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1/31/14

A Man's a Ma- UGH, No.

There is a moment after the, admittedly decent, opening number when the cast of A Man’s a Man breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience head on. They say something to the extent that the first act won’t make much sense compared to the second act.

Umm, hello? I’ll do you one step further and say that the ENTIRE show didn’t make any sense.

Now open at the Classic Stage Company, A Man’s a Man is an “I CAN’T EVEN...” in the truest sense of the hyperbole. This mistaken-identity “farce” (haha, nice try) of a troop losing sight of one of its own, only to enlist a random straggler who then gets consumed with the charade that is foisted upon him... and…something, something…there is also Justin Vivian Bond in drag, who is, like, there…or something...

I’m sure it made sense…if you are on a high-dosage of meth. Yes, this show is a Bertold Brecht piece, so something straightforward is never on the menu with his epic theatre style. But I’m not sorry; even though it is deliberately cracktastic - and the show knows that it is cracktastic - the fact remains that the end result is a total WTF in a not-fun way.

A significant percentage of my experience, already bored and checked out, consisted of honing in on these canisters that littered the stage. These canisters (barrels?) looked like something you would transport oil in with its metallic-look and tinted orange color. They took the form of many things - stacked on top of each other and strewn from the ceiling, paired with big-ass leaves, to evoke the forests of India. Forts. Machinery. A rug even, you name it. There was a canister for every possible prop and place the story offered up. All that amounted to though was that the stage looked like a laser tag arena. So much so, I was disappointed that it didn’t glow-in-the-dark and we weren’t treated to a combat break.

On that note, wouldn’t most shows benefit greatly if all the characters just stopped what they are doing to engage in a round of laser tag? Talk about Epic Theatre (in the literal sense).

Duncan Sheik’s score is marginalized in favor of the CRACK going on stage, with only very few songs in the score and only select ones resonating. And the cast was adequate in trying to generate charisma in a show that hates its characters (or everything and everyone, for that matter). Brecht has some hits in his vast body of work for being cray cray, but awesome (like say, The Threepenny Opera), but A Man’s a Man - and this un-engaging production, in particular - is a far cry from his best.


Photo Credit: Richard Termine

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