Mother Courage and Her Children

Jan. 31—March 9 $64–$99
Arena Stage
1101 6th St. SW, Washington, DC
Map
(202) 488-3300
“Whenever heroics are called for,” snarls Kathleen Turner in that unmistakable burr-edged baritone of hers, “it’s a sure sign someone’s fucked up.” Make no mistake, there are fuckups and heroics aplenty in Mother Courage and Her Children, the epic antiwar broadside currently occupying the grim, gray bomb crater at the center of Arena Stage’s in-the-round Fichandler Theater. Turner powers her way through the massive title role on grit and will, surrounded by a well-picked, energetic ensemble cast, in a bitterly cynical story that calls on her character to haul her perpetually weary carcass through the hellscape of various 17th-century European battlefields over the dozen-year course of not one but two religion-fueled wars. Mother Courage, not to put too fine a point on it, is a war profiteer, a vendor of everything from brandy to boots to bullets, forever dragging her three children and that iconic cartful of ever-changing merchandise along in the wake of whatever army has the upper hand. As Brecht’s sprawling narrative propels Mother Courage from one staggering blow to another, Molly Smith’s intensely stylized staging, inflected by a heightened movement language conceived of by David Leong, frames romantic disappointments, wholesale slaughters, and unexpected outbreaks of peace alike in brisk vignettes that make their points forcefully but never outstay their welcome, even as the evening stretches toward the two-hour-45-minute mark. [TG]

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