This is active, arresting drama built around parable and an epic Sanskrit poem, the “The Mahabharata,” believed to date to the 8th or 9th century B.C..
Ery Nzaramba in “Battlefield.” (Pascal Victor/ArtComArt via Kennedy Center) The words will rally anyone even minimally appalled by what’s going on in the world. “Truth is the duty of every human being,” says a sage character in director Peter Brook’s stirring and severely beautiful “Battlefield.” “Truth is the highest refuge; truth is the greatest penance.” Don’t mistake the counsel in the 75-minute piece at the Kennedy Center’s Family Theater, though, for a lecture. This is active, arresting drama built around parable and an epic Sanskrit poem, the “The Mahabharata,” believed to date to the 8th or 9th century B.C. Thirty-two years ago, Brook first staged his nine-hour adaptation of “The Mahabharata,” reputedly the longest poem ever written. In this compressed treatment, derived from that play by Jean-Claude Carrière, Brook and co-director Marie-Hélène Estienne briskly recount the experiences of a reluctant Indian king, Yudhishthira, in the aftermath of a calamitous battle that has resulted in hideous carnage. The tale unfolds with four exceptional actors — Carole Karemera, Jared McNeil, Ery Nzaramba and Sean O’Callaghan — and a superb percussionist, Toshi Tsuchitori, on a blank stage adorned only with a few sticks and poles of bamboo. The actors wear black pajamas and require merely a piece of brightly colored fabric, drawn over themselves as a shawl or twisted into a train, to suggest any number of human or animal characters. For in “Battlefield,” the power of metaphor i...