Into the midst of our dreamy lives comes a wake up call with the Walla Walla University production of “Mother Courage and Her Children.”
College drama departments don’t generally subsist on gate receipts, so they can be more adventurous and even profound in their choice of productions. And so it was that WWU picked the most challenging of Bertolt Brecht’s plays to present for our edification.
Edification is what this play intends. Brecht didn’t want his audiences leaving the theater in doubt of what he might have had in mind.
Mother Courage makes her money on the battlefield. Actually in the midst of battle. She is a sort of traveling Green Zone with three kids from various casual relationships.
As played by Jennifer Landaverde in this production, she is a mother with a heart of gold who clutches tightly to every dime she makes. Ms. Landaverde has a very open and welcoming persona, so it was easy to identify with her character’s line of logic.
Landaverde was ably assisted by two supporting actors in Randall Lutz as the Cook and Jordan Stephan as the Chaplain. While I name these three actors specifically it’s important for the cast to know their performances contributed greatly to the impact of this production.
The role of Mother Courage is challenging, to say the least. It’s a female equivalent to Hamlet. If an actor can make either of those roles work, the foundation is laid for their future work in theater.
Watching a three-hour performance can be a challenge for the audience as well. Whoever said art was easy? But director David Crawford chose a translation by Tony Kushner, who gives the dialogue a natural flow getting away from the stilted English in earlier translations.
For this production Crawford changed the original setting from the 1600s to various periods in American history. Starting with the American Revolutionary War and traveling through a tapestry of wars right up to the Iraq War.
There are certain performance venues in our community that don’t get enough attention, and the work at the Walla Walla University Theatre department is certainly one of them. Mother Courage and Her Children closed last week, but it was an eye-opener.
I’m so happy to see WWU adding theater to its curriculum. It provides the students a chance to explore social and psychological conditions relevant to our lives. Bravo!