A.C.T.’S Geary Theater presents Battlefield directed by Peter Brook and longtime collaborator Marie-Hélène Estienne until May 21st. The play is based on the “The Mahabharata” considered the longest epic in world literature, it’s approximately eight times as long as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey together.
Brooks had adapted the full version in the early 1980’s receiving great acclaim at the Avignon Theater Festival in France and then an English version at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In this new adaptation, the 90-year-old theatre director focuses on a single episode for 70 minutes with no intermission, a big departure from the previous 9-hour long play.
Battlefield begins with a newly crowned king as he surveys a post-war battlefield his army has won. He reflects on the morality of it all while surrounded by dead bodies including his own kin. What price do their lives have in relation to his newly minted crown? Is it possible to find tranquility in the midst of all the destruction? What good is power when so much has been destroyed? He refuses to assume the role and consults with his grandfather, Bhishma.
The audience is treated to tales that conjure up questions of destiny. Do things ultimately happen as they are meant to be? Once the damage is done its inevitable that one has to find the motivation to move on but still questions will remain of whether or not it was worth all the loss.
The stage seemed to big at times with the minimalist presentation and intimacy between the four characters and their storytelling. A few bamboo poles, a single drummer on stage, and different colored clothe draped on an actors shoulders to change characters. The fourth wall is broken for a quick minute and then the audience is drawn right back into another message. It’s bound to leave you thinking about how it relates to present times and how history tends to repeat itself.
April 26–May 21
A.C.T.’s Geary Theater
405 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA