The Good Person of Setzuan
Bertolt Brecht and Tony Kushner are among the most entertaining and provocative playwrights in the history of theater. Put them together for "The Good Person of Setzuan" and the result is an exhilerating parable of love and money, written by Brecht when fascism was rising in Europe and grounded by Kushner in the social and economic realities and relations of our own time.
As the tale begins, a motley crew of three gods arrives in Setzuan. They are searching for one good person who will be revealed simply by offering them a bed for the night. But everyone fears a visit from the gods--except for the prostitute Shen Te. She takes them in, and they reward her handsomely so she can do good for all who need her help. Soon, though, Shen Te is up against a dilemma: more help is needed than she can possibly give. As she sings to the gods, with new music composed for this production, "To be good and to live/Split me, like lightning, in two."
FPTC core member Christie Lee Gibson directs The Good Person of Setzuan. An opera singer, actress, and creator/producer/director/coach of musical-theatrical happenings, Gibson points to the great story that Brecht and Kushner tell. "With its wealth of colorful characters," says Gibson, "the play is both funny and heartbreaking." Brecht's humor engages us, says Gibson, "even as he tells an earth-shattering story about the impossibility of being good in the world."
A trio of rising young Boston actors lead a cast of 18, playing some 30 roles. Emerson College senior Kelly Chick balances the two halves of Brecht's challenging leading role: as Ms. Shen Te, the prostitute, and as her alter ego, Mr. Shui Ta, the strict businessman. The dual role reflects the conflicting forces that pit the human quest to survive against the equally human desire to be good.
Alan Sevigny, who recently received his Bachelor's of Music Education from the University of Maine, will be Shen Te's friend Wang, the hapless water seller. Jeff Marcus, who recently appeared in "Blood Rose Rising" and "Our Town," will play Shen Te's lover, employee, friend, and foe: the would-be mail pilot Yang Sun.
The production will take place in the temporary home of Fort Point Theatre Channel, a vacant 5,000 square-foot commercial space in an artists' neighborhood threatened by explosive development. Despite that large space, seating will be limited. FPTC visual artist Anne Loyer, who leads the design team for The Good Person, and Gibson have conceived an intimate production that brings the audience and the actors together to explore basic questions about living in our modern world.
Loyer's design, with movable screens and giant fans manipulated by the actors as set crew, draws on her work as a visual storyteller throughout her career. Her work has ranged from two-dimensional fine art, to narrative animations, to public art projects and performances that incorporate audio and video in collages based on the lives of real people. Loyer also co-curates "Tamziq, Scattered and Connected," a multifaceted international and local collaboration between artists and students from the United States and the Middle East, with a focus on Iraq. In May, as part of "Tamziq," she will design FPTC's premier production "Waiting for Gilgamesh," by Iraqi playwright Amir al-Azraki.
In addition to Loyer, the design team includes costumer Silvia Graziano (who is also FPTC resident playwright) and the puppet/mask/props team of Hana Pegrimkova and Patrizia Rodomonti.
FPTC founding member Nick Thorkelson, the composer, will lead the four-piece Carny Band, providing original live music for the play's many songs. Just as Brecht and his collaborators created theater songs based on German dance hall music of their era, the Carny Band will carry the tradition forward in musical riffs derived from doo-wop balladry, gospel, new wave, gypsy jazz, and more from our own times.
Thorkelson has performed in various rock, blues, soul, and reggae bands, including Boston's first reggae band, Jamaica Hylton. He co-wrote and helped stage a workshop production of "Defarge," a musical based on "A Tale of Two Cities." Collaborating with Thorkelson is his brother, Peter Tork, formerly of The Monkees.
Gibson, who doubles as artistic director of OperaHub, describes the world she and Loyer are creating as "a distillation of the relationships between people, as well as between people and their environment." Brecht's use of characters with names like The Landlady and The Carpenter, she says, "bring out the ways each of us takes on a role and fits into a society larger than the problems of any one individual."
10 Channel Center Street (View)
10 Channel Center Street
Boston, MA 02210
|Minimum Age: 10|
|Dog Friendly: No|
|Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!|