Friday, January 30, 2009

Play of the Week: Puntil and His Man Matti

"And so to Puntila and Matti
Matti is a working man, Puntila a fatty.
And it features some scenes of humorous behavior
Performed against the backdrop of a mythic Scandinavia.

Mr. Puntila and His Man Matti is a gem of a play. This little known Brecht story focuses on the elitest land-owner Puntila and his antics with his chauffeur Matti. Puntila is the most uncivil capitalist in Finland, living in extravagance and taking anything he can get his hands on. When he is drunk, however, he is the most genial and generous bloke in the country. So it is up to Matti to prevent him from completely loosing his head and his fortune when he is drunk, but also to prevent him from loosing his friends, family, and servants when he is sober.

While the play in and over is self can be strongly socialist (and anti-capitalist) at times is an understatement. There are several scenes that deal directly with Pubtila's abuses of the working man. But at the same time, the journey of the two men and the understandings that they reach is a wonderful human story that is familiar to all. And the sub-plot of Puntila's daughter and her dreadful fiance is funny enough to "make you wet yourself."

Take a moment to find and read this play. It definitely shows you a more fun-loving and free-wheeling Brecht than we may be accustomed to. At the very least, it will force you to approach his masterpieces like Mother Courage and Her Children and Caucasian Chalk Circle with a new perspective.

Happy Birthday: Vanessa Redgrave (b. 1937) & Hal Prince (b. 1928)
February 1: Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

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