Butler University Theatre, Oct. 7-11
Directed by Owen Shaub
Liberal doses of faculty talent have been applied to good student performances to retell Bertolt Brecht's 1944 pro-communist parable. Sarah Conyers-Conte's period costumes create a pre-revolution Georgian world in which the poor serve the privileged. Rob Koharchik's nifty wooden crate set swivels to serve as mansion, farm house, and mountain pass. Best of all, composer Frank Felice's original compositions (performed by alumnus Brooks Frederickson) dot the landscape of the almost three hour show with bellowing drums and shimmering cymbals. Unfortunately, it's a case of impressive parts adding up to a disappointing whole. Despite sensationalistic plot elements--a wealthy governor is violently murdered and a servant girl puts her life at jeopardy to rescue his baby--Act I plods dully. It turns out the turning set is a time killer and the heroine is the boring kind of good. The much better and funny second act shifts focus to a judge who is both wise and wicked. He often helps the poor, but only if there is monetary or carnal compensation in it for him. Both acts suffer from the insertion of atonal vocals poorly sung, perhaps intentionally. Director Owen Schaub's version of Brecht's folksy tale might have been better if he drew less on the play's folksiness and more on its irreverence; if he had tapped fewer theatrical traditions and more of his cast's youthful energy. 940-9659; www.butler.edu/theatre.