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Review: Peter Brook Returns To BAM With Minimalist BATTLEFIELD

It was thirty years ago when director Peter Brook and BAM Executive Producer Harvey Lichtenstein first peeked inside what was left of the Majestic Theatre on Brooklyn's Fulton Street and deemed the crumbling remains of the elegantly ornate 1904 structure as the perfect venue for their landmark production based on the ancient Sanskrit epic poem, "The Mahabharata."

Review: Peter Brook Returns To BAM With Minimalist BATTLEFIELD
Sean O'Callaghan, Jared McNeill, Ery Nzaramba,
Carole Karemera and Tohsi Tsuchitori
(Photo: Richard Termine)

The ensuing restoration retained the theatre's original architectural elements, as well as the look of crumbling remains. With a text by Jean-Claude Carrière, the three-part, nine hour long spectacle was one of New York's great sensations of 1987.

THE MAHABHARATA's narrative describes the 18-day Kurukshetra War, which pitted princes of the Kauravas and the Pandavas in a dispute over the throne of Hastinapura in the kingdom of Kuru.

The Majestic, which in 1999 was renamed The Harvey in Lichtenstein's honor, now houses a brief run of BATTLEFIELD, a 70-minute epilogue to war created by Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne that considers the horrific consequences of victory.

Drummer Toshi Tsuchitori, a member of THE MAHABHARATA's company, sits in a corner playing out emotional rhythms as an ensemble of four actors play out the drama.

Yudhishthira (Jared McNeill) of the Pandavas is not in a celebratory mood, despite having won undisputed reign over Kuru, after the reported slaughter of millions. The piles of bamboo sticks placed on stage may very well represent the bones of the deceased.

Review: Peter Brook Returns To BAM With Minimalist BATTLEFIELD
Sean O'Callaghan, Ery Nzaramba, Carole Karemera
and Jared McNeill (Photo: Richard Termine)

His mother, Kunti (Carole Karemera), and his uncle, the defeated King Dritarashtra (Sean O'Callaghan), who is blind, share in his grief and his concern of how to unite his people peacefully.

Along with ensemble member Ery Nzaramba, they play out a collection of parables involving such characters as a fearful worm slowly maneuvering across a road, a soul leaving a dead man's body and a gold-loving mongoose.

The minimalist production exudes a meditative mood and audience members might well draw parallels between the ancient text and our modern world. At its best, BATTLEFIELD is elegantly played by a fine company, but the slow solemnity of the proceedings can be a bit taxing.

Still, there's an appeal to the piece that comes from connecting contemporary views with two worlds; one of centuries ago and one of just a few decades past.

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From This Author - Michael Dale