Saint Joan of the Stockyards | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Saint Joan of the Stockyards

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SAINT JOAN OF THE STOCKYARDS, Prop Theatre Group, at Bailiwick Repertory. Bertolt Brecht's transmutation of the Maid of Orleans' struggle to the harsh underbelly of Chicago's meatpacking industry in 1904 receives a thoughtful but occasionally stilted revival for Prop's 20th anniversary. Adapter Stefan Brun directs an intelligent cast, including Jenny Magnus as a fiery Joan Dark and Jonathan Lavan as her nemesis, the deliciously Machiavellian Pierpont Mauler. But video segments meant to illustrate the process of vertical integration with farmers, wholesalers, packers, and stockholders are confusing rather than illuminating, in part because of Brun's asynchronous overlapping dialogue.

In a program note, Brun indicates that he envisioned this production as a bare-bones performance by a Berlin theater troupe in 1932, right after the Nazis took power (the play was never produced during Brecht's lifetime). That underlying urgency doesn't always come across, but Brun does flesh out much of the gallows humor. Maureen Michael is particularly fine as the gruesomely widowed Mrs. Luckerniddle (an episode lifted from Upton Sinclair's The Jungle). And Sam Muñoz as the self-preserving leader of the evangelical Black Wool Hats chillingly demonstrates why maybe Dubya's faith-based social-services initiative isn't such a hot idea.

--Kerry Reid

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