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October 8, 1998

ART brings on das Brecht, das funk

CAMBRIDGE — The new season at the American Repertory Theater, announced last week, is a pointed departure from the theater’s normal fare of classic plays by classic playwrights. This year, the theater is instead featuring obscure plays from classic playwrights.

Some of these are simply new compilations of works, such as next month’s "Bucket Full of Ibsen." Among the other obscure plays featured this year will be Anton Chekhov’s gender-bending sequel "Auntie Vanya" and Noel Coward’s "Look at Me, I’m Gay!"

But the biggest buzz at the ART this year is about the American premiere of Bertolt Brecht’s musical "Anya!" Brecht’s dark tale of an American orphan adopted by a war profiteer was later "bastardized," according to ART artistic director Danielle Toll, into the musical "Annie" which became the toast of Broadway.

"Brecht hated the ‘Little Orphan Annie’ comic strip," said Toll, "and he wrote a play which relentlessly unmasked its capitalist underpinnings. Brecht’s focus was not on the eyeball-less orphan but on the insidious system which stole her eyeballs from her."

Like its American counterpart, Brecht’s play begins with Anya alone on stage singing about how sad she is to be a slave of the state. But there is still hope in her song.

Maybe we’ll uprise
And maybe we’ll revolt
Then from the Dollar we’ll be free

Anya is forcibly removed from her state-sponsored home and put under the charge of Daddy War-Bucks-Greed-Lies who tries to convince Anya to bring down the system from within ("You’ll Never Successfully Rebel Without a Smile"). Anya, however, recognizing that her foster parent’s co-optation, runs away to start her own colony of subversive artists. Anya and her artist friends join in song:

The Government will fall
Bet your evil dollar that tomorrow
The oppressive regime will be done
When I think of a day
With no
Secret Police
I’ll just strip off my shackles
And chains
And sing

Ach, Tomorrow
We’ll have a perfect society
It’s only a rebellion away

Tickets go on sale next week. $65 orchestra, $55 balcony.

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