Theater: Eros Degraded

Baal is Bertolt Brecht's first play, written in 1918, and in later life he had no illusions about it. Just prior to his death in 1956, he said: "I admit and I warn you—the play lacks wisdom." What the play has is wildness, chaos, raw youthful exuberance, an ardent desire to shock, and a compulsion to spew up nausea in the accents of lyric delirium. One line sets the tone of the play: "I see the world in a mellow light: it is the Lord God's excrement."

Baal (Mitchell Ryan) is a poet who sees...

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