The Caucasian Chalk Circle
Written by Bertolt Brecht, translated by James and Tania Stern with W.H. Auden
Directed by Beth Raas-Bergquist
Presented by Ghost Light Theatricals
At The Ballard Underground
This last weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing The Caucasian Chalk Circle at the Ballard Underground. If you are a fan of Brecht, large ensemble pieces and classic text, you will thoroughly enjoy this show. Contrary to what I had prepared myself for, not knowing exactly what to expect and knowing Brechtian theatre only a bit, I left the show feeling oddly sensitive and actually quite lighthearted! Truthfully, I wanted to call my mother immediately and thank her. I also (explanation to follow) wanted to buy hundreds of scarves.
The Caucasian Chalk Circle is set in Grusinia, a town ripped apart by war, and tells the story of a child who is left behind while his parents flee for their own safety. A woman, Grusha, finds the abandoned child and selflessly decides to save and raise him herself, to the best of her ability and at the expense of her own safety. It is at times heartbreaking and political (classic Brecht) but it is also beautiful and incredibly touching. We find ourselves faced with the uncomfortable question: What makes a mother, your true mother? Is it genetics? Upbringing? Your emotional connection? How can this truly be measured? It is not as easy of an answer as you might think.
While it is true that Brecht is not for every theatre goer, I believe that creative story-telling is. Director Beth Raas-Bergquist has done an incredible job staging this play and using each member of her powerhouse cast to their full potential. Actors are the backbone of this production, and more so than usual in this case! In this show the performers serve as not only the players (each portraying multiple roles throughout the show, so much so that there are no characters listed in the program) but also as the props, scenery, set pieces, and more. Each and every performer in this show is solid and worthy of a mention. I would call out individual standout performers but honestly, I would just be listing each of the 15 members of the cast. It was an absolute delight seeing the ensemble work and feed off of each other as well as this cast did. With limited set pieces they brought the scenes to life and kept the audience engaged. Also, the inventive, unpredictable use of scarves is a beautiful touch. I love, love, love scarves and anytime they are used theatrically is a bonus.
Spend an evening at the Ballard Underground, buy a delicious $2 beer, and enjoy the show. Then go home and call someone you love, just because you can.
By Chelsea Madsen