When you go to war the goal is to win, but in order to win you must, of course, survive.
For the title character in Bertolt Brecht’s landmark drama “Mother Courage and Her Children,” that survival becomes predicated on the war itself. That’s part of what makes the play such a challenge.
Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that Arena Stage in Southwest Washington would be the venue for staging the production just as another round of wrangling over the Defense Department’s budget begins on Capitol Hill, with the Pentagon calling for a series of reductions that would adversely affect communities depending on military spending and personnel — regardless of the wisdom of recessions or another round of base realignment. There’s also the matter of the looming conflict in Central Europe currently playing out between Ukraine and Russia.
“In light of where Brecht started the play, it might be easy to view the play simply as an ‘anti-war’ play, or as an ‘anti-business’ play, or to perceive Mother Courage as a ‘hero or a villain.’ But that is to see the world of the play in polarities,” production dramaturg Mark Bly wrote in an introduction in the program.
That complexity is what makes the script still so applicable.
And as portrayed by Kathleen Turner, Mother Courage is the incredibly complex character that Brecht probably intended her to be. Turner’s Mother Courage is a woman dedicated to trudging forward, through the both Polish-Swedish War and the Thirty Years’ War.
Courage is shown as a woman who wants to protect her children, but also as one who knows the financial ruin that can come from having her iconic cart freshly restocked with merchandise at the outbreak of peace. Full story