Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Battlefield at BAM Next Wave 2016

BAM presents Peter Brook's reduction of his epic 9 hour MAHABHARATA which played BAM several decades ago and was subsequently filmed and turned into two films, a full length one and shorter three hour version.

Battlefield is a revised 70 minute segment focusing on what happened after the massive war that killed millions. As the dead are collected the new king wanders the battlefield looking for solace and guidance.

To say that the first half of the play is one of the most moving things I've ever seen is a gross understatement. The simple explanation of the cost of war kicked me to the curb and back with it's eloquence. Equally moving is the shows discussion of grief and guilt on the part of the survivors and especially those who called for the war. It is as timeless a piece of writing and theater as anything I've ever experienced.

The problem for me is that in the final third the play loses it's focus. What was a wonderful rethinking of the epic play spins out as we jump through time as we see what happens to characters and we get the appearance of Gods and beings that were fine in the full epic, but here distance the play from today. We were not brought into a world of gods at the start and their sudden appearance weakens the universality of the first part of the piece. Worse it drones on too long to the point I had to stifle laughter when the river goddess appeared with a shriek that caused a large number of the sleeping blue hairs in the audiences to suddenly wake up.

I really liked it, but I wanted to love it.

If nothing else it has me searching for the DVDs of the full show.

Battlefield plays through October 8. For tickets and more information go here.

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