Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Also see Cameron's recent review of When the Rain Stops Falling
David Hare's slightly irreverent translation of Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children tells the story of a peasant merchant's attempt to peddle her wares and protect her children through the Thirty Years' War. First performed in 1941, Courage's relentless and inexorably grim journey still sends a powerful message about the life of the poor and the devastating impact of war.
Dardaris is superior as the title's stalwart old matriarch. Embracing the character's complexityshe is by turns unspeakably cruel and fiercely loyalDardaris delivers a performance that is hard to watch and impossible to turn away from. Leigha Kato shines as Courage's mute daughter Kattrin. Although she never speaks a word, Kato is responsible for the most excruciatingly intense sequence of the play. Gregory Isaac and Forest McClendonthe Chaplain and the Cook respectivelygive strong performances and their acerbic dialogues are a highlight.
Unfortunately, there are some serious problems with the production. Much of the original score is tepid and the music occasionally slows down the action. There are a few moments when the first act feels downright boring. At the performance I attended, several cast members gave unpolished vocal performances and there were more than a few off pitch notes and awkward transitions. These problems were exacerbated by the fact that the accompanying musicians are behind the stage, unable to stay in sync with the performers (musical director Michael Pacifico was out at that performance).
Mother Courage and Her Children is a staggering work of artrelentlessly dark, unflinchingly bleak, and purposely disorienting. Burn's production offers a tantalizing glimpse into how a strong cast and original score can elevate the classic work. Unfortunately, the inconsistent composition and uneven musical performances end up being more distracting than enhancing.
Mother Courage and Her Children runs through November 6th, 2016, at the Sedgwick Theater, 7137 Germantown Ave. in Mount Airy, Philadelphia, 19119. To purchase tickets visit www.QuintessenceTheatre.org or call 215-987-4450.