The Department of Theater and Dance opened its 2009-2010 season yesterday with an adaptation of the moderately obscure "Drums in the Night," a play from the influential German playwright Bertolt Brecht.

Originally written in 1922, "Drums" takes place in 1919 at the end of World War I. It tells the story of Andreas Kragler, a soldier who has been a prisoner of war in Africa for four years.

His fiancée, Anna, unquestioningly awaits his return, but after much encouragement from her parents she decides to marry Freddy Murk, an Industrialist war-profiteer. Of course, Kragler returns that very morning and Anna struggles with the decision to live a comfortable bourgeois life with Murk or a difficult-but-loving life with Kragler.

The entire play occurs in a single historically-significant evening, coinciding with the Spartacists', the more revolutionary faction of the Communist party, attempt to overthrow the government.

Many of the characters are faced with life-altering choices. Kragler must decide whether to fight for Anna or for the Revolution, and Anna struggles to choose between a bourgeois home life and the man she loves.

"It's a perfect play to do right now," said Director, Associate Professor, and Chair of the Department of Theater and Dance Roger Bechtel. "It forces us to ask the question 'What would you give up from your personal life for your political beliefs?'"

Khalil LeSaldo '11, acting the role of Kragler, echoed these thoughts.

"The essential questions of the play are profound and relevant not only during this time, but also during our college years," said LeSaldo. "Are you looking for personal fulfillment or would you fight for a certain ideology? And to what extent would you be willing to give up personal benefits and perks?"

Bechtel spent this past summer translating and adapting the play for Bowdoin's stage.

"The play gets out of control," he said. When asked to explain further, Bechtel elaborated, "There are a number of plot lines that don't end, so I ended all of those; at points it is very rhetorical, so I cleaned it up a lot; and I rewrote the ending. I needed to make it clear for a contemporary audience."

The play is largely expressionistic, meaning that it defies realism—it is getting at truth in an unrealistic way.

LeSaldo said, "Expressionism is a hard lens to work with. You are representing something truthful in a way you wouldn't see if you were just walking down the street."

"The actors have worked very hard to understand the logic of their characters and why their characters do certain things," Bechtel said. "But people aren't consistent or logical in life either. Despite these challenges, we have had wonderful collaborations to get the story told in as theatrical a way as possible."

The plot of the story begs the question of why the department chose to tell a dark, theatrical, expressionist comedy almost 90 years after it was written.

"There's the question of communism and socialism," said Bechtel. "Obama has been called a socialist like it's a word you can't say at the dinner table. It's about revolution and terror, which interests me personally."

"And it's about a guy with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] who has been in a war in a southern climate for four years. The allusion to Iraq is clear," Bechtel added.

"Plays become fashionable, and as a result many don't get done," said Bechtel. 'Drums' is a great play—it's inconsistent, messy and difficult, but it's also interesting, provocative and pleasurable. It puts it in our laps, but that's like life."

Performances of "Drums in the Night" will continue tonight and Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Pickard Theater. Talkbacks with the director and actors will be held after each performance.

The performances are free and open to the public.