Review: ‘Mother Courage’ takes historical drama to new heights

Noah Moore

As Scott Stroot, WKU theatre director, noted, “if off the war you make a living, you’ll also have to do some giving.”

Amidst the Thirty Years’ War in Europe, pinching pennies is a habit of many, including the main character. WKU Department of Theatre and Dance’s production of “Mother Courage and Her Children” places its titular virtue in the hearts of all in attendance.

“Mother Courage and Her Children” was written by by the German dramatist and poet Bertolt Brecht in 1939 in response to the rise of fascism and nazism in Germany during the peak of World War II. Considered by some to be the greatest play of the 20th century, the story unfolds as Mother Courage and her children, ‘Swiss Cheese,’ Eilif and Kattrin move throughout the country in a wagon. When ‘Swiss Cheese’ becomes kidnapped and thus coerced into serving for the militia, Mother Courage seeks to find him, but eventually sees him as dead.

The worst of his death isn’t even his bloody corpse – she cannot claim ownership of the body for fear of being associated with crime. In a period of high stakes, violence and criminal undertakings, a story of hope, resolve and love arises in the rarest of places.

The show’s shining light came in its large cast. Although often in large casts, one can seem to get lost with so many different characters, this was not the case. Each character, however large or small, was essential to the storytelling and performed his or her role to the fullest. The most interesting part was watching characters, such as the Cook, played by Colin Waters, and the Chaplain, played by Aaron Schilling, transcend from minor characters to characters who drive the plot. Normally in theatre, characters with such titles are one scene appearances, but this show was reliant on the many diverse ensemble members to tell their stories.

Jada Jefferson played the role of ‘Mother Courage’ – a seemingly daunting task. Yet, Jefferson played the role with vibrance and stoic confidence. Each word was biting yet complex and her demeanor enveloped the other characters in care, love and occasional sass.

Jefferson’s performance is a must-see. Complementing their mother, the three children, played in tandem by Hunter Mayfield, Colby Clark and Shyama Iyer, bounced personalities off each other exceptionally. Each character filled a different void of the family and made it their own. Perhaps the best moment came when Iyer, playing the mute Kattrin, danced with a fancy hat and boots, dreaming of a different life. This displayed her true character vivacity, balancing hopeful somberness with giggly delight.

Also worth noting was Yvette, the camp prostitute, played by Kayleigh La Grutta, who served as a slight comedic relief. Through her bamboozling old men into cash and her large character, she gave the show a certain luster that refined the subsequent dramatic moments.

The technical aspects were mesmerizing, most notably the lighting. With cool washes and bright spots intermingled in scenes, the show seemed to come alive in its setting and create a world for the characters to live in, a mastery stemming from the hands of WKU senior Tia Fields. Also, the scenic design was seemingly plain. However, when looked at more intimately, it was a multi-faceted and detailed canvas upon which an emotional story was displayed by Tom Tutino, set designer.

In life, we long to search for meaning, especially in the worst of times. This show not only conveys that search, but exudes it. All in attendance will leave wondering what their life’s meaning is and yearning to find more, much like Mother Courage.

Reporter Noah Moore can be reached at (270)745-2655 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @noah_moore18.