The Brig may not be a good time, but it is definitely good theater. When a performance manages to sear visual images onto the brain, negative or otherwise, it counts as a significant accomplishment — you might even call it art. In this case the trance state induced by repetitive action and voice is much more about the feeling of suffering endured by writer Kenneth H. Brown than it is an intellectualized attempt to understand it. Directed by Judith Malina (who first directed the piece in 1963) The Brig is relevant and affecting even 50 years after its original run.
In short, The Brig is a day in the life of a United States Marine Corps prison in an unspecified foreign country. Highly stylized and finely choreographed, this particular day is the same as any other in the prison, a study in submission and repetition, a stripping away of all independent thinking, and, ultimately, a test of human endurance. Taking into account different responses to the loss of identity and independence, Brown, who was himself an inmate at a military prison, includes moments of individuality: the complete surrender of self (prisoner #3) and the breaking down of faculties (prisoner #5) are the most extreme examples of how personality and human response manage to seep into life, even in dire circumstances.
As a member of the audience, you have a choice: Drift into the rhythm of the play and let the repetition of the prisoners’ actions wash over you, or react endlessly and responsively to the lightly narrative waves of movement and acts of unmitigated aggression. Whichever it is, you will no doubt leave the theater with a deeper appreciation for the complexities of human freedom.