ClassicsFest 2010: ‘Mr. Puntila and His Man Matti’

As ClassicsFest 2010 unspools, we’ll be featuring insights from the project initiators about what inspired them to choose their plays and their experience of working on them.

Mr. Puntila and His Man Matti
by Bertolt Brecht

“There are bad people who would be less dangerous if they had no good in them”
— La Rouchefoucauld

I’ve always been a fan of this wonderful Brecht comedy. The theme of how the working man is exploited not by an iron fist but by ol’ boy charm, is a time-tested and all-American approach (Google ‘the Bacon Rebellion’ in 1670s Virginia).  It’s how our politics have always worked, since the days when a candidate threw a barbecue and provided a keg of rum to the locals.  Today they get a Facebook page and get photographed at a basketball game.

Lee Hall’s 1990s adaptation brings its own level of charm, so when I read it I knew I wanted to do it for the Company.  I assembled a great group of actors, and I talked the songwriting team of Paul Peglar and Ben McLain and our own Matthew Goldsby into writing a few new tunes for us.  We had a total blast doing it last August as a Potluck Reading.

When it came time for the next step, this ClassicsFest workshop, I learned I couldn’t both play one of the leads (I was Puntila) and direct it.  Since I had very specific designs on how to do the show, my choice was either to find a director who would be willing, basically, to not direct, or to give up acting the role and direct it myself.  I chose to do the latter, knowing I could find an excellent Puntila among my Antaeus brethren.

I’m certain this show won’t make a damn bit of difference in the real world — no minds will be changed, and the revolution will still not be televised — but it’s funny and entertaining and has a few ideas to share.  And you never know what mischief a few subversive ideas and a bit of charm can create…

– John Apicella, Director and Project Initiator

Mr. Puntila and His Man Matti plays as a “Work in Progress” on July 20, 21, 22 at 8pm.

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