Peter Brook, like 30-year-old Scotch is an acquired taste. He’s to theatre what John Cage is to music—great but not to everyone’s liking. Those who’ve sampled and adore his productions will find much to love in “The Suit.” For the neophyte it may be a bit bewildering.
The acting is superb. Nonhlanhla Kheswa is heartbreakingly trapped and demeaned. Some adulterers are whipped, some killed outright. She is, instead, slowly, cruelly worn away, not allowed to forget her sin. Ivanno Jeremiah, as the so gentle and loving husband at play’s opening, masterminds her destruction as the play progresses. He shrouds his vindictiveness in bonhomie. Ever polite but ever ready to remind her of her sin.
The music reinforces mood, gently fills your soul with sadness here, with joy there. The set is haunting, typical of the way Brook reduces theatre to its essence. The open stage reveals but a few straight-back, wooden chairs painted in primary colors, a table, a few metal clothes racks, and, of course, a man’s suit on a hanger. They are moved and moved again to create the illusion of many sets, and to make sure that the man who shouldn’t be there is indeed ever present. The back wall, stark, bare is lit to match mood. Sometimes it’s blood red, sometime midnight blue, sometimes not lit at all.
Brook might be seen as a philosopher whose explorations take place on stage. He sees theatre as a place to defy rules, build and shatter illusions, but also to create lasting memories. This presentation contains some of the cast members and makes use of the production team from the play’s worldwide tour. Marie-Hélène Estienne and Franck Krawczyk collaborated with Brook in this theatre work based on a story by South African writer Canodoise Daniel “Can” Themba.
You won’t forget it if you go. The question is, will you enjoy the sensation?
Through April 6 at Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer St., Seattle, (206 443-2222 or www.seattlerep.org).