New York | 2h 20m | Already closed

Mother Courage and Her Children

From 14 critic and 42 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Ambitious, Relevant

About the show

Classic Stage Company transports Brecht's timeless play about war to the modern-day Congo, starring Kecia Lewis with a new score by Tony Award-winning composer Duncan Sheik. More…

The indomitable 'Mother Courage' follows one luckless army after another across a war-torn world in her canteen wagon. She’ll do anything to hold onto her money-making wagon, even if it means the loss of her children. CSC's production of Brecht's classic tale of war, profit, and loss stars Kecia Lewis, with music by 'Spring Awakening' composer Duncan Sheik, and explores the modern day conflict in the Congo.

2h 20m | Already closed | Classic Stage Company (East Village)

The New York Times

"Ms. Lewis’s commanding performance would be impressive under any circumstances, but the drama surrounding her undertaking the part makes the achievement all the more remarkable...Mr. Kulick’s searing production sets the play in the 1990s in both the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo. It is an inspired idea." Full Review


"Still calling for line cues and sometimes reading from the script at a critics’ performance, Lewis nevertheless was mesmerizing as a woman addicted to survival yet able to reveal a beating heart at moments that make Brecht’s text less didactic than it often is thought to be...Duncan Sheik has written some sinuously beautiful music for the songs Brecht wrote for the play...Kulick’s conception is sound and the cast surrounding Lewis is impeccable." Full Review


"Although the acting ensemble and creatives surely deserve recognition, it is Lewis’ performance in the nominal role that is the real reason to visit this production. Even with script in hand, Lewis credibly insinuates herself into the gritty role of Mother Courage...There have been other fine productions of 'Mother Courage' in New York in recent years, but Lewis’ performance is by far the gutsiest and most daring...If you miss it, you miss something extraordinary." Full Review


"By my count, Lewis called for a line five or six times. What I saw, beyond that issue, was a performer of tremendous confidence, taking on a role with a sharp perspective on her character...Lewis, with her performance, exhibits a hardness few mothers could muster. More than anything, she’s a realist. A powerless realist...Duncan Sheik has contributed the bare bones of a score to the bold, discomforting and well-performed proceedings." Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

"In Kecia Lewis’s hands Mother Courage is indeed strong – both fierce and earthy...For all her strengths, Lewis simply has not had enough time to prepare fully...Perhaps due to this disruption, although cut to just two hours this 'Mother Courage' still seemed at times less than well-paced and energetic...In the face of all this, there are some arresting performances." Full Review


"Kecia Lewis is not yet in command of all her lines; but she is offering a resolute sketch of the formidable 'Mother Courage' she's capable of creating...Kulick's version achieves a unity of style and purpose among its actors, and that's the chief virtue of what's on view at CSC...Kulick's production has an alienating effect that Brecht couldn't foresee: a leading performer forced by circumstances to rely on a script and call out for prompts." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"The problem here is Kulick and translator John Willett are white and if this play was supposed to be riveting or transformative, they failed. This play is now a bore...Kulick may have tried to make 'Mother Courage' delusional, but Lewis breaks our hearts as she makes this role her own...Bravo to Ms. Lewis for taking a bad situation and making it work to her advantage. I look forward to see her in a much better adaptation." Full Review

New York Daily News

"Kecia Lewis is a brave actress. Whether she’s a good one or not is unclear from 'Mother Courage and Her Children.' It’s impossible to tell since Lewis is clearly still finding her way in the role...Lewis has an intense gaze she uses well, but seeing a script with highlighted lines will take you out of a performance. And at this point her 'Mother Courage' was mostly about decibel level; adding volume doesn’t add dimension." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"There's no doubt that Lewis, a large woman with fire in her performing, is a valiant and worthy choice, but as long as she requires the script as she hones her characterization, it's unfair to assess what she'd doing...Everyone connected with the production may have been operating under the best intentions but that good intentions don't always lead to the best results. This is one of the times that they don't." Full Review

AM New York

"The contemporized setting is intriguing. But on the whole, the production is undeveloped and unfocused. The musical interludes, which use prerecorded pop music by Duncan Sheik, are out of synch with Brecht’s lyrics and come off as baffling. Lewis, who was still holding a script and calling out for lines at my performance, is still finding her way in the role, but she has moments of great authority. In any case, Lewis deserves credit for stepping in on short notice." Full Review

American Theater Web

"As alluring as these performances are and despite the mutli-layered event that is Lewis' impressively nuanced performance, Kulick's revisitation to the play underwhelms...Kulick's decision to reset the play in modern times might add a certain immediacy, there's a sense that costumes, the performers' accents, and Sheik's intriguing music are only laid on top of the action...It's rough to not wish that the overall conceit for this 'Mother Courage' were as brave as Lewis herself." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"It is weirdly enervated and unambitious, achieving the coolness and flatness and lack of surprise that Brecht calls for but not, except at a few points, the lively horror to counter it...The staging is muddy. And while it is unreasonable to judge Kecia Lewis after just a handful of performances — she’s still learning the blocking and occasionally calling for lines — there’s no getting around the fact that, with one exception, the rest of the cast is hardly more comfortable with the material." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Lewis provides the production with its singular bright spot...Here's the thing: It doesn't matter. Kulick has so wildly misconceived everything that Lewis's participation, valiant though it may be, is functionally meaningless...It's a Cliffs Notes, third-hand retelling of a plot synopsis of it that's playing dress-up as either Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize–winning 'Ruined' or Danai Gurira's soon-to-hit-Broadway 'Eclipsed.'' Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Despite all other elements of the play being fundamentally African, the songs sound like a mix of light country, new age and Broadway light. They are so glaringly out of place as to make one wonder if one has dozed off and awoken in a different theater...Ultimately, nothing could rescue the stilted course of this 'Mother Courage' production. And that’s a shame...A turbulent production that still hasn’t quite made up its mind." Full Review

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Masterful, Must see

See it if You enjoy flawless acting, great staging and masterful directing

Don't see it if You consider Reality Shows clever and intelligent entertainment.

Great acting, Great staging, Epic, Intense, Relevant

See it if you can be disturbed by the chaos of war and upset by man's loss of humanity.This is a powerful production of a compelling play made current

Don't see it if you are disturbed by the ugliness of human nature and destruction.If you wish to be entertained in a fluffy and pretty way and to avoid life

Absorbing, Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Profound

See it if You're a fan of Brecht and Duncan Sheik (he did the new score).

Don't see it if You're looking for a light-and-fluffy comedy.

Great acting, Intelligent, Profound, Relevant, Riveting

See it if you enjoy fantastic performances and a fresh take on a classic play (with new music by Duncan Sheik).

Don't see it if you're easily confused. I found parts of it hard to follow, but the story is still strong and riveting.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Resonant

See it if You like new takes on classic plays with fantastic acting from the star.

Don't see it if You don't like experimental takes.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you enjoy a new angle for a classic anti-war play, and/or you like Duncan Sheik's music

Don't see it if your family business is in the black market or you think carpet bombing is something you use when you get bed bugs

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting

See it if You want to see young talent in an epic classic

Don't see it if If you don't like long serious performances

Ambitious, Entertaining, Great writing, Intelligent, Intense

See it if you like Brecht or you want to see an excellent lead performance from Kecia Lewis, and a lot of strong singing from multiple cast members.

Don't see it if you don't like Brecht or you will be bothered by an occasionally hard to follow narrative, due mainly to extensive cutting, I think.

Profound, Intense, Thought-provoking, Ambitious, Riveting

See it if like riveting, challenging theater. I saw it with Tonya Pinkins & I didn't understand her objections. I hear Kecia Lewis is superb!

Don't see it if hate Brecht or want something mindless and easy to watch.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Absorbing

See it if You want to see an ensemble cast of great acting.

Don't see it if You don't like heavy and intense dialogue plays

Thought-provoking, Quirky, Relevant

See it if Amidst all the drama, watching the team pull the (invisible) wagon to tell Brecht's most well known play is , in a way, inspiring.

Don't see it if If the Brechtian style and conventions aren't your cup of tea.

Absorbing, Edgy, Thought-provoking

See it if you have time and energy from deep, thoughtful theater.

Don't see it if you are looking for light or entertaining fare.

Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Disappointing, Great acting, Tragic

See it if you embrace unconventional interpretations of Brecht. The brilliant tragedy of this play comes across despite some unevenness.

Don't see it if It bothers you that the main actor is performing with a script. Kecia and the other cast are wonderful but they have not had enough time.

Intelligent, Relevant, Resonant, Intense, Indulgent

See it if u love Brecht (like I) & want to take in a rare (decent) production of a great play. You'll get a mere glimpse of what it could be here.

Don't see it if Well...I'd take the opportunity to see a Brecht masterpiece even tho it should have been better. The music for the songs -- bad, not tough.

Ambitious, Confusing, Entertaining, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if you're interested in a classic being done very differently. Also, Michael Potts - he's always a reason to see something.

Don't see it if you can't sit through anything dense.

Ambitious, Quirky, Thought-provoking, Disappointing, Confusing

See it if Had the unfortunate experience of seeing Kecia Lewis in a preview. Good actress at a troubled stage in this production. She carried script

Don't see it if As a result she didn't connect to audience as best she could if she had more prep for this role. Sad circumstances

Nice try, Disappointing

See it if you want to see Brecht's play updated to the war in the Congo. The exposure to that war was interesting, but didn't quite work for me.

Don't see it if you are looking for an intense theater experience. This should have been, but not sure why it just didn't get there.

Ambitious, Profound, Confusing

See it if you can't wait for a really good production of Brecht's masterpiece

Don't see it if you've read too much about Tonya's leaving the production and worry it will color your appreciation

Great writing, Ambitious, Cliched, Disappointing

See it if You like Brecht. The cast works hard. I saw it for Tonya Pinkins penultimate performance, and she was amazing as always.

Don't see it if The concept didn't work. It was sophomoric. Pinkins was right to leave.

Confusing, Disappointing

See it if Spirited, the human condition and survival, Africa and Brecht

Don't see it if Confusing and disjointed

Disappointing, Great acting, Slow, Overrated

See it if If you're up for seeing an interesting attempt at an adaptation

Don't see it if You want a solid piece if theatre that is well paced as this is not. The actors are good, but the piece is a mess. The music hinders.

Confusing, Banal, Slow, Dull, Riveting

See it if Tonya Pinkins gave a riveting, compelling performance. The rest of this production was a dull mess.

Don't see it if The other actors ranged from competent to bafflingly inept. The music did not fit the play or the setting.

Also I went back and saw Kecia Lewis in the part. She admirably made it thr... Read more Read less

Confusing, Disappointing, Excruciating

See it if You have seen other productions of this play to compare if this update works.

Don't see it if If you've never seen this masterpiece before and if you don't like shouting as a substitute for acting.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent, Riveting

See it if are a fan of Brecht, historical, political drama, terrific staging, acting and costumes, and a timeless,compelling story.

Don't see it if dislike war profiteering.

Funny, Thought-provoking, Edgy, Great staging, Ambitious

See it if You enjoy Brecht and epic theatre in a modern setting.

Don't see it if You don't enjoy political shows or intricate stories.

Cast & Creatives (18)