I was walking toáthe metro after seeing Mikhail Levitin's production ofáôCourageô for the Hermitage Theater, and Iápassed byáaáyoung couple.
ôWhat did you think?ô Iáheard the young man ask his female companion.
Iádon't know,ö she said without prejudice.
Iádon't know either,ö the young man quickly responded, almost with relief ináhis voice.
Levitin, Iáthink, would beápleased toáhear that. Heáknows what the next step is: aáconversation, aácoming-to-terms that might last 10áminutes orá10ádays. The point isáthat this couple did not leave the show behind when they walked out ofáthe theater. They took itáwith them, and itáwould take some time before they really knew what they had experienced.
I'm with those kids. Levitin's rendition ofáBertolt Brecht's ôMother Courage and Her Childrenö isáoften irritating. Itáisáloud, shrill and long. Much ofáitáhappens onáthe front edge ofáthe stage, soáthat dust, debris and spittle rain down onáthose ináthe front rows. Characters grunt and croak and continually make weird ululating sounds asáifáthey are ready toáburst out yodeling. There isásomething subhuman about many ofáthem, and aácouple ofáthem, dammit, get onáyour nerves.
Ináshort, this isánot the kind ofáshow you come away from with aágrin onáyour face and praise burbling onáyour lips.
Itánever tries toábeáthat.
Brecht wrote this, one ofáhis most enduring plays, about aáhardscrabble woman trying toákeep three children alive during the 30áYears' War ináthe early 17th century. She isáanáopportunist who profits off ofáwar byácatering toáthose who wage it. With her canteen wagon, she follows the war where itágoes, suffering the indignities that soldiers throw atáher while selling them everything they will buy.
Levitin gave the play aábroader twist. His ôCourageöá the Russian variant ofáwhich actually means something like ôspiritô orájoie deávivreöá isáless aáplay about war than aánasty, aggressive, corrupt world, ináwhich there are few, ifáany, ways toásurvive with dignity.
While the main stage atáthe Hermitage isáunder reconstruction, ôCourageö plays onáthe large stage atáthe Fomenko Studio.
Designer Harry Hummel aided Levitin's shift away from the specifics ofáwar ináhis installation-like set design. Aátowering cage stands atácenter stage and isáhung with crude, loosely woven ropes and, perhaps, scalps. Aácircular wind machine ináone corner and aáconjoined pair ofáwagon wheels ináanother are the only hints atáMother Courage's food cart, although they are never used specifically for that purpose. Aácrude, thick woven rug lies downstage, and itáisáhere where most ofáthe action takes place, threads and lint flying ináthe air asáthe actors trample itáinto aáknotted mess over the course ofáthe evening.
Darya Belousova, aáleading actress atáthe Hermitage for 25áyears, turns ináone ofáher most powerful performances asáMother Courage. She isáthe embodiment ofáaáwoman who knows weakness isádeath; therefore, strength isásomething you stubbornly cling to. Ináfact, itáisásomething you manufacture out ofánothing ifáyou lose it. This makes Belousova's Courage aáhard, hard woman, but she also provides convincing and endearing flashes ofávulnerability, especially ináthe company ofáher mute daughter Kattrin (Irina Bogdanova) oráher sometimes beau, the company cook (Sergei Oleksyak).
There are some excellent individual performances.
This includes Bogdanova, especially ináthe final scene asáshe stands ináaáfield above aácity and silently agonizes over whether she should let the townspeople know anáinvasion isáimminent. Boris Romanov, playing aáweak and highly compromised priest, delivers aábrilliant monologue, ináwhich his character feebly, though eloquently, attempts toájustify the notion ofáwar byáassuring usáthat the bliss ofápeace may exist even inábattle.
Ináthe episodic role ofáaápeasant woman fearing for the life ofáher infant, Alla Chernykh arguably brings usáthe most emotional, heartfelt moments ofáthe performance. Olga Levitina provides some masterful scenes ofácomic grotesque asáIvetta, Mother Courage's friend and rival inálove. And Galina Morachyova nails her single scene asáthe aged Mother Courage who must look back onáaálife ináwhich none ofáher children survived.
Levitin's ôCourageö rarely entertains. Chances are, though, itáwill get you thinking.
└˛Ŕ˝˛ű, Óßţ˛Ó■¨Ŕň ˝ňÚ¸Ó˝:
Powerful Belousova Stars ináBrecht'sá'Courage'
John Freedman, 28.03.2012
ź┬ňŰŔŕŔÚ ŕţýßŔÝÓ˛ţ╗, └ŰŰÓ ěňÔňŰňÔÓ, ĎňÓ˛ÓŰŘÝÓ Ó˘Ŕ°Ó, 05.2016
ĎňÝňÔÓ ˝˛ţţÝÓ, └ÝÓ˝˛Ó˝Ŕ ¤ÓÔŰţÔÓ, ĎňÓ˛ţÝ, 18.10.2013
Îň˝˛ÝÓ ÓÔÓÝ˛■Ó ÔáŢýŔ˛ÓŠň, └Űňŕ˝ÓÝń ÎŔŃţÔ, źĎňÓ˛ţÝ╗, 1.11.2012
Powerful Belousova Stars ináBrecht'sá'Courage', John Freedman, 28.03.2012
Unexpected 'Kapnist Round Trip' IsáPure Levitin, ─ŠţÝ ďŔńýÓÝ, The Moscow Times, 7.05.2009
ĎˇńÓ ╩Ó´ÝŔ˝˛. └áţßÓ˛Ýţ?, ╠ÓŔÝÓ ĎţŕÓňÔÓ, ═ţÔÓ ŃÓšň˛Ó, 10.04.2009