1/22/2008

The Mother

Mothers send their sons to war. Julie Dapper as the Mother.

Written in a dramatic form with resemblances to Brecht's radically-experimental Lehrst├╝cke (or 'learning plays'), Brecht describes the play as "a piece of anti-metaphysical, materialistic, non-arostotelian drama." To become a good mother, the play suggests, one must do more than just complain about the price of soup. The title character, the mother Pelagea Vlassova, journeys through the play’s fourteen scenes, the death of her son, and her own impending illness, struggling against illiteracy, but filled with good humor and wily activism, until the moment in October 1917 when she becomes free to carry and raise her own Red Flag on the eve of the Czar's overthrow, which she was unable to do before. The play gains continued recognition for its forensic, witty and, some would say, humanist critique of capitalism seen through the experiences of those obliged (as Brecht himself saw the world) to live beneath the latter system's crushing weight.

Brecht wrote The Mother at a time when Hitler was gaining power in Germany. During a performance the Nazis arrested the leading actor to prevent the public from seeing the play. While Brecht’s primary purpose with this may have been to provide a dramatic handbook of action and hope for his contemporaries, the play is said by many of its advocates to contain a universality just as applicable to much of the world today, particularly in the Global South.

In the play, Brecht utilizes narrative, irony, the juxtaposition of self-proclaimed "truths" to reveal their flaws, the concretizing of complex ideas into dramatic events, an understanding and simple presentation of human behaviour, and a comedic optimism that things can be changed and that reason and common sense will overcome fear and superstition. Vlassov is Brecht's entirely positive major character, enduring a long and difficult road to liberation. The play also contains a musical score by Hans Eisler, who was a collaborator particularly sympathetic to Brecht’s Marxist perspective. It is also the most elaborate use of the Lehrstuck form.

Information from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

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