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The shamelessly seductive Bertolt Brecht
By Michael Moriarty
This is my favorite photo of Bertolt Brecht, fraudulent hero of “The Working Man”!
The cigar and rather Irish chapeau make him something out of Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront.
Much more Lee J. Cobb’s tyrannically would-be labor king than Marlon Brando’s irresistibly lost Terry Malloy.
Still, Brecht always struck me as the little German guy with an Italian mobster’s pretentions.
And this legendarily naughty Brecht?!
Without the music of Kurt Weill?!
Bertolt Brecht without Kurt Weill is Oklahoma without Rogers and Hammerstein.
Green Grow the Lilacs?!
That is what the script had been before it became a musical.
However, Brecht has haunted my entire acting career!
So much so that he, like Richard Wagner in the first opera of my Lionhead Ring, Wagner in Hell, became the title role in my second opera: Bertolt Brecht in Chicago.
This invasion of my life by Brecht began during my senior year at Dartmouth College.
Yes, indeed! I performed the role of Mack the Knife in the playwright’s Threepenny Opera.
Needless to say, I felt rather miscast as Brecht’s most famous pimp.
It takes quite a while for a spoiled-brat, bourgeois kid like myself to feel at home in Brecht’s highly fantasized underworld.
The next encounter was a small role in the Guthrie Theater production of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.
That Brecht never visited Chicago himself but was certain that it matched all the evils of Adolf Hitler and World War II Berlin?!
America’s entire Democrat Party now remind me of the worst pretentions of Bertolt Brecht.
With Arturo Ui,Brecht was earning credits as a Communist while, before the House on Un-American Activities Committee, he was denying all membership in the Communist Party.
My first “Brechtian success” as George Garga in his Jungle of Cities!
After that experience in Boston, I could have easily returned to Dartmouth’s Hopkins’ Center with the essence of Mack the Knife.
Here is a rather beaten-up version of the Clive Barnes’ warmly approving New York Times review.
After that, I flirted with doing a Brecht play with my own theater company, Potter’s Field.
My increasingly conservative politics, however, had me looking at the “Great Brecht” with very American and increasingly jaundiced eyes.
My portrait of him in my operas – and I suspect he will be appearing in more than one of them – is, at this particular juncture, a rather thrilling question mark.
Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in the landmark television series Law and Order from 1990 to 1994. His recent film and TV credits include The Yellow Wallpaper, 12 Hours to Live, Santa Baby and Deadly Skies. Contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/@MGMoriarty.