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Sean O’Callaghan, Carole Karemera, Ery Nzaramba, Jared McNeill, and Toshi Tsuchitori in BATTLEFIELD (photo by Richard Termine)

Sean O’Callaghan, Carole Karemera, Ery Nzaramba, Jared McNeill, and Toshi Tsuchitori appear in BATTLEFIELD at BAM (photo by Richard Termine)

Next Wave Festival
Brooklyn Academy of Music
BAM Harvey Theater
651 Fulton St.
Through October 9, $30-$110

“To hell with the state of humanity,” the blind king Dritarashtra (Sean O’Callaghan) says at the beginning of Battlefield, Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne’s return to their international triumph, The Mahabharata. It’s also a return home for the ancient Sanskrit epic to the BAM Harvey, previously an abandoned movie house that was renovated back in the late 1980s specifically for the nine-hour Mahabharata. In Battlefield, codirectors Brook and Estienne and their C.I.C.T. — Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord company explore a central section of The Mahabharata, focusing on the aftermath of the bloody battle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, which left millions dead. The sparse stage is littered with bamboo sticks that represent the victims of the fierce war; there is also a small black rectangular block where various characters sit, mournfully understanding that there is little difference between victory and defeat. The new king, Yudhishthira (Jared McNeill), seeks advice from a soothsayer (Ery Nzaramba, who also plays several victims) and learns a devastating secret from his mother, Kunti (Carole Karemera), while Toshi Tsuchitori, who also performed in the original Mahabharata, sits in a chair off to the side, playing powerfully moving percussion on his African drum. The play evokes both Shakespeare and Brook and Estienne’s adaptation of The Suit, but it is too often flat and lackluster. There are some wonderful moments, particularly the use of colored scarves to identify the characters (the costumes are by Oria Puppo) in addition to sticks that represent various objects, but the stripped-down seventy-minute production feels like it’s all middle, with no beginning or end, existing in its own unclear time and space, even as it makes relevant connections to what is going on in the world today. Brook will participate in a discussion following the October 6 performance. The play runs through October 9, after which BAMcinématek will present the series “Peter Brook: Behind the Camera,” consisting of nine of the Paris-based English director’s films, beginning October 10 at 7:00 with his five-and-a-half-hour adaptation of The Mahabharata, which he will introduce, and continuing through October 20 with such works as The Beggar’s Opera, Lord of the Flies, Swann in Love, King Lear (starring Paul Scofield), and a week-long run of 1968’s Tell Me Lies (A Film About London).

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