Tit for Hat: Brecht?s play allegorizes racial conflict through unusual headgear.

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Well, it ain’t subtle. But then, it’s not supposed to be: In Bertolt Brecht’s seldom-produced 1936 play Roundheads and Peakheads, the landed gentry of the country of Yahoo realize that a well-timed race war could avert a widespread peasant uprising. So they install a new governor (Erica Lauren McLaughlin), who exhorts the round-headed populace (known as Zaks) to blame their manifold socioeconomic woes on the pointy-headed Ziks among them. Soon, anyone with a vaguely Zikkish look is getting pummeled in the street, arrested, and/or threatened with execution. So, yeah—you won’t need the Cliff’s Notes to pick up on the allegorical/historical subtext here. The challenge for director Christopher Gallu, then, is to find something in Brecht’s heaping helping of anti-Nazi agitprop that will give the audience a fresh, accessible theatrical experience that doesn’t smack of, well, homework. He gets some help from the innovative technical chops of his design team: Michael D’Addario uses projected video, a bilevel stage, and sliding panels to carve out a multimedia environment that’s alive with movement but never busy, and Brian S. Allard’s lighting enlivens the proceedings—particularly in one scene that calls for spotlights to carom from character to character— with crisp comic timing. Speaking of which: Gallu’s got Grady Weatherford on board as a horse-obsessed farmer, and the actor has a great time unpacking Brecht’s lines and finding the funny. Catherine Deadman, as his daughter/strumpet, brings a hard edge and a pleasant, if over-mic’d, voice to a handful of songs by composer Chris Royal, who sets Brecht’s lyrics to a sampler-pack of musical styles. All of the above work well together, gently complementing the evening’s central, often punishingly insistent allegory. But in the end, there’s no getting out from under the dead weight of all that didacticism—you feel it pressing down in the raps that open both acts (written by Gallu, earnestly delivered by Andres Talero), in the general tendency of the uneven cast to mug and strut, and in the we-all-learned-a-lesson-here-today ending. Those aspects are less engaging, yes—but you can’t say they aren’t dutifully Brechtian.