Theater Review and Discussion by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray
Larry Murray: I think we saw something very special last night as Olympia Dukakis donned the role of a lifetime in Mother Courage and Her Children. And not just her, but Shakespeare & Company’s cadre of superb actors, all of whom delivered strong and searing performances. What’s your first reaction?
Gail Burns: This is Dukakis’ fifth, and possibly last, time in this iconic role. It suits her very well, in fact it was her idea to tackle it one more time at age 82. And Shakespeare & Company Artistic Director Tony Simotes was wise to take her up on the suggestion. Brecht is classic 20th century theatre and, although not as marketable as the Bard, his work is just as universal and insightful.
Larry: Mother Courage is often referred to as “epic” theatre, and it is certainly different from anything else you see on stage from that period. It has a style and language all its own. I loved the placards projected over the beginning of each scene.
Gail: Brecht is synonymous with the Epic Theatre style of the mid-20th century, which was a reaction against the Naturalistic style of Constantin Stanislavsky. Every effort is made to remind the audience that they are in a theatre, watching actors on a stage. The projected placards literally tell you what is going to happen in each scene before you see it, so you are not distracted by figuring out the plot or tempted to empathize with the characters. Everything is revealed in advance.