Classic Stage Company
Written by: Bertolt Brecht
Directed by Brian Klick
Production web 💉 out of 5.
It began in a blackbox. So far so good. Then Mother Courage came out in character and played with the audience trying to sell them watches and buy jewelry off of them. A bit of a gimmick, granted – by my hopes reached up. I thought I was going to see an entirely new take on this literally, war horse of a play. Then the play began, and all was back to the uninspired – – apart from placing the play in the Congo it was what I expected – – but then Tonya Pinkins, as Mother Courage, began to sing and I was right back there in the past with her in the front row of Caroline, or Change. Once she sings you can never forget that voice – – so beautiful, so rich, and so full of soul. NOW, I was in love with this show.
But then all the times between when she sang . . .
I just sensed that nobody in the building was having any fun. The audience was over-aged; facing an over-heated theatre; soaking wet from an overly wet NYC afternoon and all on a Wednesday matinee. The children of Mother Courage seemed to be played by boys lacking in technique. They were hard to hear and made so few genuine acting choices. They looked like they were out of some mediocre high school production. The adults around Mother Courage were better trained but they were tired and clearly wanted to be other places.
This play just didn’t resonate with the audience. It lacked depth and grounding. It didn’t surprise. It didn’t have teeth, and THIS story NEEDS teeth. It was loud, it was physical but it never hit us in the gut. When the last of her children leaves her we could care less, and we certainly didn’t feel the ache of her body pulling that cart towards the next war. The idea of profiting from war could not be more timely – but the abundance of drooping heads in the audience did not speak well of the effectiveness of the delivery of the message.
What really disappointed me was that for the wonderful soulful songs that they gave to Ms. Pinkins, they gave her canned music. Sure, she could sell herself even through the canned music – – but I wasn’t sure what was worse the war at hand or that someone was asking Ms. Pinkins to essentially sing karaoke.