(photo credit: Nathan Brusovany)
‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’
By Bertolt Brecht
Translated by Rivka Meshulach
Directed by Udi Ben-Moshe
Music and arrangements
by Keren Peles
Cameri Theater, July 30
It would have been worth it just for the fugue in Act I – “She who hears a cry for help,” and then Azdak’s lusty “Why” in Act II, but this Chalk Circle is almost an embarrassment of riches. As in director Udi Ben-Moshe's equally substantial Good Woman of Setzuan last year, The Caucasian Chalk Circle is as Israeli as it is close to purist Brechtian; it has that extra soupcon of cheerful impudence.
In case there’s any doubt about Ben-Moshe’s intent, the inimitable
Azdak, relished to a fare-thee-well by Shlomo Bar-Abba, tells us in the
very first lines, “There was once a land – [sotto voce] not here –
inhabited by two peoples – [sotto voce] not here – who fought for
possession – [sotto voce] not here…”
Thus unfolds the tale of Grusha (Neta Garty), the servant maid who
raises as her own the governor’s child abandoned when his mother flees,
the tale of the rascally Azdak made judge as a joke, and the judgment of
the chalk circle, for, as Brecht writes, “what there is shall go to
those that are good for it … and the land to the waterers that it bring
Let’s get this niggle out of the way. Every once in a while Keren
Peles’s musical numbers unnecessarily impede the flow of the narrative.
One or two could and should have been edited out, splendid though they
That said, this Chalk Circle
a banquet for the eyes, the ears and – oh, most certainly – the mind.
Garty as Grusha and Udi Rothschild as her soldier lover, Simon, utterly
engage. Their playfulness, their innocence, their intrinsic goodness,
their suffering and their joys provide the production’s needed emotional
intensity, while acting as anchor and counterpoint to the cruelty and
Also outstanding are Lior Zohar, Shlomi Avraham and Ruby Moskovitz in
their various clown roles, each subtly different from the other. They
and the rest of the virtuoso cast Brecht our hearts when we’re not
busting a gut laughing.