Invitations to premieres rarely go out to proverbially grouchy critics, but I happily get my share. Yet I have forgotten the last time I received one to a preview — a much scarcer privilege. Broadway and West End traditionally call critics to previews and quiver in trepidation for their reviews, which can truly make or break a show. But Indians typically delay critics’ arrival as much as possible, or even consider them personae non grata.

Thus, Arun Mukherjee’s phone invite to the preview of Minerva Repertory’s Khorir Gondi proved his confidence in the production, corroborated by what I saw. Bengali groups have revisited Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle repeatedly, but this is the most complete. Subhankar Das Sharma adapts rather than translates Eric Bentley’s version, retaining even the Prologue in the Soviet commune, which most directors cut — but not Mukherjee. Because the frame remains essential for Brecht’s political message in the inner parable.

Indian directors also localize Brecht, ignoring his theory of distancing in time and space. Mukherjee compromises: his characters seem quite Indian, but their costumes come from all over; he keeps Azdak’s name, but turns Grusha into Sudha. I think he should have maintained the alienation effects (Caucasus, the folktale) to preserve Brecht’s aim. Notwithstanding conceptual quibbles, the large cast perform superbly. In the best spirits of an ideal repertory, nobody flaunts star status and everybody acts multiple roles. Still, one has to mention Suparna Maitra Das (naive Grusha) and Buddhadeb Das (cunning Azdak).

In his lifetime regarded as second only to Brecht, Friedrich Wolf lies neglected today. Akhor reminds us of his anti-Nazi activism with Asit Basu’s Deyāl Likhan, inspired by Wolf’s Professor Mamlock in Utpal Dutt’s translation. Basu warns against the rising tide of fascism: Wolf wrote the play as one of the first to protest anti-Semitism after he fled Germany when Hitler gained power in 1933. Mamlock, a Jewish doctor like Wolf, is humiliated and purged from the hospital that he heads. Basu enacts Mamlock with the experience of his years, and directs the group in a scary depiction of how ethnic fomentation sways the majority’s mind.

(From The Telegraph, 24 June 2017)