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Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Mother Courage - Brecht without Brecht
Mother Courage by Bob Goepfert
– “Mother Courage and Her Children,” a play written by Bertolt Brecht in 1939,
is considered to be one of the great plays of the 20th century. Yet, it is rarely produced. at least in the
production which runs at Shakespeare & Company through August 25 both displays
the greatness of the material and helps one understand why the theater
companies avoid the material.
is a tame version of a play that should be almost harsh. Instead of offering the material in what is
known as “Brechtian-epic” fashion, which means stripping away all theatrical
elements for a bare bones in-your-face style, director Tony Simotes offers the
play in a more traditional and conventional style with moody lighting, and genuine
makes the play more emotionally accessible but it mutes the confrontational and
didactic aspects of Brecht’s approach to Parable Theater and makes the work
seem tame and even vague.
brilliance and passion of Brecht’s material remains. Written as a response to
Hitler and the start of World War II, “Mother Courage” is an honest, harsh look
at the insanity of war and the human cost of living in a perpetual state of
terror. It forces the audience to look
into their own conscience and wonder to what degree we all sustain and support wars because they good for business.
winning Olympia Dukakis plays “Mother Courage” as a street-smart single-minded
woman whose only interest is the survival of her children. The second most-important thing in her life
is her wagon filled with supplies from which she sells goods to the soldiers
during the years 1624-1636 in the midst of the European Thirty Year War.
of the play is that her business eventually costs the lives of her two sons and
daughter. Each dies because of an excess
of a single virtue – kindness, bravery and honesty which Brecht makes clear in times
of war those traits are weaknesses rather than a virtues.
Even if you
disagree with Dukakis’ single-note stoic performance you will respect her
choice which succeeds more often than not.
For sure you will leave the Tina Packer Playhouse with respect for her
courageous performance and admiration for this 82 year old actress willingness to
tackle this monstrously demanding role.
Parks, is wonderful as the mute daughter Kattrin, Apollo Dukakis grows into the
role of The Chaplin and the charismatic John Douglas Thompson,( though too
young for The Cook) finds moments of brilliance with the character. Paula Langton is delightful as the whore
Yvette Pottier and, arguably, comes closest to capturing the performance style
associated with Brecht. The rest of the large
cast is uneven, often because they permitted to utilize a confusing variety of performance
Shakespeare & Company production of “Mother Courage” is not the epic
theater one associates or craves from a Brecht play – but it is a decent
production of an important play.
Courage and Her Children,” at Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, Mass. Through August 25, in rolling repertory at
Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, Mass.