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STAGE REVIEWS : ‘MASTER RACE’ AT CAL STATE FULLERTON

“The Private Life of the Master Race” at Cal State Fullerton is a bleak, blistering evening of theater, shot through with despair and irony, void of humor or hope. Bertolt Brecht’s collection of vignettes aims for the solar plexus, and at Fullerton more often than not the aim is true.

Under the direction of Donald Finn and Lawrence Jasper, this production slowly and meticulously builds a case for outrage as it depicts the vise of fascism closing on the everyday lives of Germans during Hitler’s climb to power. Brecht wrote this litany of horrors between 1934 and 1938 as he saw his countrymen becoming, as one character says, “a whole nation of betrayers and betrayed.” In the 17 dramatic scenes, linked by poems and songs, neighbor is pitted against neighbor, friend against friend and father against son as moral choices are tossed like live grenades into the laps of the characters.

Brecht’s most powerful vignettes create characters that the audience can identify with immediately: the judge stymied by political considerations in “In Search of Justice”; the woman forced to leave her homeland in “The Jewish Wife,” and, in particular, the family divided by fear in “The Informer.” Finn and Jasper have drawn some fine ensemble work as well as many neatly executed individual portrayals from the large cast, led by Kevin Symons, Charles D. Ketter, Annette Reid-Shamell, Jill Cary Martin, Aaron Cabell, James Edward Elmore, Sarah L. Overton and Juliet C. Latona.

The scenic design by Ron Rybkowski is dramatic, stark and functional, and is complemented by Susan Hallman’s darkly effective lighting design.

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“The Private Life of the Master Race” will play through Sunday in the Little Theatreat Cal State Fullerton, 800 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton. For information, call (714) 773-3371.


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