Mother Courage


Brecht’s masterpiece anti-war play about a woman who makes her living from the ongoing war.


The reviews are in.

“The opening moment of Frank Theatre’s production of “Mother Courage and Her Children” is an inspired blend of design, music, performance and spectacle… Director Wendy Knox’s production is thought provoking and immensely entertaining. The company is as tight as a war drum. Standouts include Grant Richey as the opportunistic Chaplain and his rival in love, The Cook, played by Emil Herrera. The two men vie for Courage’s affections even as she’s busy calculating her meager profits. Courage, as played by Annie Enneking, is a gritty dynamo whose heart is buried under layers of dirty rags, parsimony and ruthlessness. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Enneking in the part. Her voice undulates between an echoing roar and a meaty mezzo-soprano, and her ability to interpret the vocally and emotionally demanding material is astounding. Enneking sinks her teeth into her character and doesn’t let go, right up to the play’s — but not the war’s — shocking end. Mother Courage and her children do not emerge victorious, but Frank Theatre’s production does. An astute commentary on the art of war — what Courage calls business as usual — “Mother Courage” remains provocative, relevant and terrifying. –Jamie Kleiman, Pioneer Press,

“Frank Theatre director Wendy Knox, a seasoned excavator of classic political drama, has mastered Brecht’s technique to spellbinding effect in two-and-a-half swift hours. The existential horror of David Hare’s translation is strengthened by John Bueche’s spare set design in the sprawling dark Pillsbury A Mill, now converted into Courage’s playing space.… it’s the magnificent Enneking’s kinetic machismo that leads the pack. Machismo, because only the most excessively masculinized personality of either gender stands any chance of survival. Enneking vivifies Anna’s ruthless denial of her own emotions, while subtly emanating submerged anguish. Yet she never slips into sentimentality. There’s a stunning moment where she must coldly resist identifying the corpse of a loved one. Music Director Michael Croswell creates cryptic moods with Jonathan Dove’s score as the cast delivers Brecht’s lyrics with rustic gusto, despite acoustical obstacles. Emil Herrera is mischievously resilient as the Cook. Tom Sherohman is perfectly lecherous as various powerbrokers in pursuit of young flesh. Jennifer Phillips brings raw despair to Yvette, a prostitute. And John Riedlinger emits reptilian volatility as Anna’s dissonant son, Eilif. Kathy Kohl’s costumes, playfully suggestive of the period, and Michael Wangen’s simple lighting reflect the minimalism faithful Brecht productions are known for.” John Townsend, StarTribune,

By now it must be clear that this is a difficult work to pull off, and Wendy Knox’s direction is perfectly suited to the task. I’ve often found that her go-for-the-gut style produces a fascinatingly paradoxical sense of brainy distance. And this play is right in her wheelhouse. Knox’s foot soldier in this campaign is Enneking, who makes almost no false steps as she stalks around the stage dispensing wisecracks, bickering, bartering, and convincingly embracing the cracked logic of the battlefield. Grant Richey’s Chaplain is another standout. He’s in love with Mother Courage, and helps drag her cart through the muck of existence while trying to cling to the shreds of his prissy dignity. Brecht makes the Chaplain carry all kinds of rhetorical weight (which Richey lifts with apparent ease). At one point he extols the virtues of war; at another he vividly recounts Christ’s crucifixion as a metaphor for the crushing effect of bellicose empires on the fortunes of ordinary people. (This was the story’s original point, if I’m not mistaken.) The devil gets his due in the musical accompaniment, led by Michael Croswell, which mixes keyboards, percussion, and horns into a sort of satanic cabaret. And while some lyrics get lost in the mix, the cast generally pulls it off. Polish, in any case, isn’t the point here. And when Enneking hisses and roars through Mother Courage’s statement of purpose (“Song of Great Capitulation”), the heart fairly soars, then crashes, then tries to get up again. This is a brutal, profane piece (“You’re all trouser shitters!” a soldier shouts at one point), a sordid match for its subject—the murderous spree of history, in which war has rarely done much to improve the life of the average person. Best make a buck if you can, Mother Courage concludes, even though it destroys her. After all, war, as Brecht once formulated, is business as usual conducted by different means. And he’d never even heard of the Carlyle Group.” –Quinton Skinner, 

In the midst of our own mad—but enormously profitable—war, this might be the ideal time to revisit Bertold Brecht’s galling serio-comic tale of Anna Fierling, also known as Mother Courage, a canteen woman and war profiteer for the Swedish Army who relentlessly follows the 30 Years War, and whose relentless greedy pursuits eventually take her own children from her. And if there is one thing we count count on Frank Theatre artistic director Wendy Knox for, it’s to present Brecht’s tale in all its unflinching, raging, unsparing fury; Brecht was, after all, writing at the start of World War I, and the play was intended to directly address the rise of fascism. Knox has tackled Brecht before, helming smart and oftentimes brutally witty versions of “The Threepenny Opera” and “The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui,” which makes her one of the most accomplished directors of Brecht in town—it should be enormously satisfying to see what she does with one of Brecht’s most accomplished plays.” –PULSE Hot Pick