Last Friday night, beset by boredom, I decided to attend a production of Brechtâ€™s The Caucasian Chalk Circle in which most of the characters were played by life-sized puppets. I donâ€™t know what I expected, but I didnâ€™t get it. What I got instead was a spectacularly odd experience: puppets singing, dancing, and spouting Marxist dogma. The cumulative effect was hallucinatory and disturbing. It was like watching an unaired episode of Sesame Street in which Elmo is brutally executed by guerilla soldiers.
Brechtâ€™s plays balance a studied anti-realism with a cruel insight into human nature and social injustice. In The Caucasian Chalk Circle, a peasant girl named Grusha decides to care for an abandoned baby whose noble family has been targeted for execution by a revolutionary army. Sheâ€™s chased through the Caucasus