Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Mother Courage And Her Children"

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note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Beverly Creasey

Sweeping Take on Brecht
at A.R.T.


Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

Director Janos Szasz sees "Mother Courage And Her Children" in cinematic terms. His sweeping world view takes Brecht as far away from Germany as China and as close as the Americas. We're treated to stunning visuals of advancing armies in eerie silhouette, beautifully backlit, the way they do it in the movies, filling the whole screen.

Csaba Antal's gigantic moveable bombed-out-building/wall exists solely to focus the audience on images: of soldiers climbing, falling, dying. A long railroad track runs from center stage front, out into the middle of the audience's lower sections. From my odd perspective, sitting next to the track (and directly under any characters who march along those ties), the images are overwhelming. The music, too, is so deafening (OSHA would surely object to the loud decibels) that you feel like you're being bombarded from all sides .....which is evidently Szasz' point: that's what war is like.

Except that the visuals also overwhelm the performances, at least some of the time. Karen MacDonald as Mother does get one transcendent moment --- when she has to deny her son in order to survive a soldier's bayonet. Mirjana Jokovic, too, sends chills up and down your spine when she faces the end of innocence. Paula Plum gives a surreal, Brechtian performance as a clever whore, and John Douglas Thompson as a Casanova-cook remains vivid in my imagination, but the rest of the play blurs in my mind and I can only see a Chinese terra cotta army marching side by side with the conquistadors. And my ears are still ringing from the din.

"Mother Courage & Her Children" (till 18 March)
American Repertory Theatre
Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle Street, CAMBRIDGE

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide