It Staggers to Its Feet Again

I’m not an expert on Congolese music, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t sound like Spring Awakening—and this is essentially the problem with Brian Kulick’s staging of Mother Courage and Her Children, which ingeniously transplants Brecht’s play from seventeenth-century Europe to modern-day Congo but does little to establish the space beyond the vague gestures associated with the Africa of the American imagination.  That is, Mr. Kulick removes all specific references to Germany, Poland, Protestants, Catholics, and their monarchs, but doesn’t bother to replace them with much more than accents and flags.  Indeed, even the European names of Mother Courage’s (Kecia Lewis) children—Eilif (Curtiss Cook, Jr.), Swiss Cheese (Deandre Sevon), and Kattrin (Mirirai Sithole)—remain inexplicably intact.  Which is a shame, since the conceit fits the text perfectly; it is as if the idea were enough, that no research, no intimacy with the location was necessary. Continue reading “It Staggers to Its Feet Again”


First Sight of Woman

In 1621, Thomas Middleton and William Rowley rewrote the story of the fall of man with their Jacobean tragedy The Changeling: Beatrice (Sara Topham) is engaged to marry Alonzo de Piracquo (John Skelley), but she is in love with Alsemero (Christian Coulson), who is equally smitten.  He tells his friend, Jasperino (Justin Blanchard), “I love her beauties to the holy purpose, / And that methinks admits comparison / With man’s first creation, the place blest.”  Enter the snake, De Flores (Manoel Felciano), who repulses Beatrice but finds himself necessary to her when she realizes that Piracquo must be killed before she can marry Alsemero.  In return for his “service dangerous,” she begins a sexual relationship with him, which complicates her wedding night and leads to a rather grisly bed trick.  When all is done, Beatrice must admit that love has made her a “cruel murderess”: “I have kiss’d poison for’t, strok’d a serpent, / That thing of hate.” Continue reading “First Sight of Woman”

On the Other Hand

In Philip Roth’s Zuckerman Unbound, Nathan Zuckerman’s father tells him that the Barry Sisters and their recording of Fiddler on the Roof “are going to do more for the Jews than anything since ‘Tzena, Tzena.'”  Nathan allows the comment to go unchallenged, but Roth would call the Broadway musical “shtetl kitsch.”  Of course, his generation was closer, not just to the shtetl, but to Judaism proper.  They had more reason to be embarrassed by their parents’ anachronistic faith, by their pandering to Gentiles, and the admittedly schmaltzy nature of Fiddler must have been anathema to their secular intellectualism.  But it is easier to be embarrassed by parents than grandparents.  It probably wouldn’t occur to most young Jews today that they might be associated, let alone equated, with their co-religionists in Fiddler—the face contemporary Judaism, at least as I see it, standing more with Larry David than Rabbi Schneerson.  Thus, our similarities to Tevye (Danny Burstein), Golde (Jessica Hecht), and the rest of Anatevka are less cause for shame than idle amusement. Continue reading “On the Other Hand”