Bertolt Brecht, one of the many playwrights who paved the way for "experimental theatre," used experimental techniques, such as "irregular verse," that were quite novel for their time. Director Peter Mellencamp's translation of Brecht's first play preserves this tradition, adding a splash of modern language, trendy dress, and, in this case, dinner. For a fair price, the spectator can enjoy a tasty meal and flowing drinks, in the spirit of Brecht's play. The show moves quickly, but, if one is not familiar with Brecht, it may be more cumbersome than it's worth. This is not the show one might expect at a dinner theatre, which may mislead those who are expecting something more traditional.
Under the umbrella of rebirth and spring, an omniscient narrator introduces Baal (Elijah Alexander), whose name is derived from the fertility god referenced in the Old Testament. Baal is a hedonistic poet who lives by his credo: "Vices are good for you." He is a drunk and a womanizer, and he enjoys overpowering victims of both sexes. He breaks into epic verse one moment, deflowers young virgins the next, and brings death and destruction at a whim. Bored with life in the city, the antihero ventures into nature and begins a lusty affair with his best friend Ekart (Brian Stanton). After bathing himself in wet trees and wind for a few years, Baal returns to the city because of his mother's death, where he ironically encounters his own fatalistic destruction.
Norman Scott's lighting works well to convey the apparent—yet sometimes hidden—decline and destruction of human nature and society, and Alexander does a superb job of portraying the lecherous main character. Unfortunately the rest of the characters are flat and two-dimensional, and the epic verse may be too weighty for even the most avid theatregoer. Those unfamiliar with Brecht's style might have trouble getting through the play; however, if one goes with an open mind and empty stomach, this not-so-typical dinner theatre show may be palatable.
"Baal," presented by Yale Cabaret Hollywood at MBar, 1253 N. Vine St., Hollywood. Variable schedule. Feb. 2-Mar. 6. $25 (buffet and performance). (323) 856-0036.