MOTHER COURAGE at Berkeley Rep

mothercourage.jpgEverything I know about Brecht is what’s left from the tiny bit I got back in college. And that ain’t much. So I can’t tell you whether this production is faithful to his vision, or a twist on his vision, or nothing to do with his vision. I do know that it accomplished what I think would be his goal: getting me to think more about ideas than plot. At the same time, I was sucked into the production because of the amazing acting and the wonderful production elements. So what the hell do I know?

Here’s what I particularly liked. The set is fantastic, with titles written on almost every surface in chalk throughout the show. Mother Courage’s cart is impressive: an old jeep jury-rigged into a spectacular wagon that is at once modern and old-timey. The music is great, performed by a pianist, a tuba player, and the ocassional drum, all seen onstage as part of the scenes. And the acting is amazing, especially Patrick Kerr (Noel from Frasier) who is hilarious as the chaplain, although his voice is so distinctive I kept waiting for Kelsey Grammer to start talking to him.

This is the version adapted by David Hare, and the language is extremely modern and compelling, although the idea of doing a play with the message “war is bad” seems a little “preaching to the choir” in Berkeley. You could hear people giving little self-satisfied groans to their friends whenever there was a line that also applied to the war in Iraq. But what are you gonna do? If you really wanted to shock a Berkeley audience, you’d have to write a “war is good” play. And you’d be hard-pressed to do it. Unless maybe you have a whole “war is good,” “puppies are bad,” “cancer is groovy” trilogy, in which case I doubt you’re coherent enough to make it through this post.